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City will hand-count ballots in a tight West Anchorage Assembly race

The city clerk's office says it will hand-count ballots in a West Anchorage Assembly race in which incumbent Assemblyman Ernie Hall was just 93 votes ahead of write-in votes on election night.

The count begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday in a first-floor conference room at City Hall. It is open to the public.

Nick Moe launched a write-in campaign against Hall, the Assembly chairman, the last two weeks before the April 2 city election.

The count election night: 3,628 for Hall, 3,535 for write-ins.

That tally does not include ballots from early voting, mail-in absentees or questioned ballots, which are to be counted Friday.

Thousands of ballots are still out, but City Clerk Barbara Jones has said they don't know how many uncounted ballots are from District 3, the West Anchorage district in question.

Jones last week issued a statement saying the write-ins would be hand-counted if the total write-in votes equalled or exceeded the votes for Hall. She also said, "There may be other circumstances where those votes will be hand-counted."

Moe's attorney, Patrick Munson, on Monday formally requested a hand-count.

". . . There is simply no way to determine whether Mr. Moe or Mr. Hall received more votes without examining the ballots to determine voter intent," Munson said in a letter to Jones.

He also noted that in another District 3 Assembly race featuring candidates Cheryl Frasca and Tim Steele, 526 more total votes were cast election day than in the write-in vs. Hall race.

Total votes for write-in vs. Hall: 7,163.

Frasca vs. Steele: 7,689.

Munson says a computer scanner may not have accurately counted ballots where the voter, for example, put an X in the oval that supposed to be filled in for a write-in candidate, instead of filling in the oval.

"We really can't answer that question," Jones said Tuesday. "We expect a hand count may address it."

Jones and Amanda Moser, deputy clerk for elections, announced the decision to do the hand count at the end of the same day the Moe campaign asked for it.

The clerks believe the closeness of the race and public concern about the write-in tally justify the hand count, Jones said.

Hall, the incumbent in the race, said, "I have no problem at all with it taking place."

When he jumped in the Assembly race last month, Moe said he was motivated by Hall's handling of public hearings for a measure that takes power away from city unions.

The Assembly held four nights of hearings. Hall, backed by a majority of the Assembly, closed the hearings while people were still in line to speak.

Moe is a staff member of the Alaska Center for the Environment.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at rshinohara@adn.com or 257-4340.