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Alaska Legislature

Some absentee ballots list the wrong candidate in an Anchorage House race

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: September 21
  • Published September 21

The Alaska Division of Elections listed the wrong Democratic candidate on 135 absentee ballots emailed to Alaskans overseas.

The ballots incorrectly listed Adam Lees as the Democratic candidate for House District 28, which covers the Hillside neighborhood of Anchorage. Lees withdrew from the election Aug. 31 and was replaced by Anchorage Assembly member Suzanne LaFrance.

LaFrance said she was notified by a voter who shared a picture of an incorrect ballot. LaFrance then notified the Alaska Division of Elections, which confirmed the mistake and said it is being corrected.

“Although staff updated the templates for the mailed ballots, the ballots sent through email to be printed out and mailed in were not properly updated with candidate LaFrance’s name,” said Gail Fenumiai, director of the Alaska Division of Elections, in a written statement.

“I immediately notified our vendor that manages the online ballot distribution, and the vendor is recalling all of the emails that have been sent with the wrong ballot. We will identify those voters that opened the email, contact them, and ensure they get a corrected ballot emailed to them as quickly as possible. I am glad LaFrance’s campaign contacted me as soon as they found out, and I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused for 135 voters that were affected," Fenumiai said.

LaFrance, a registered nonpartisan voter, was named the Democratic nominee after Lees won the Democratic primary and withdrew in her favor. A similar situation took place in Palmer and Chugiak, where former Palmer Mayor Jim Cooper replaced Stephany Jeffers in the race for Senate District F. There was no error on Cooper’s ballot, Fenumiai said.

Republican James Kaufman and independent candidate Benjamin Fletcher are running against LaFrance for the seat currently held by Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage. Johnston lost to Kaufman in the Republican primary. Adolph Garcia is a registered write-in candidate but does not appear on the ballot.

The state sent several thousand absentee ballots by mail to overseas voters on Friday, ahead of a federally imposed deadline. The state emails blank ballots to voters who request “electronic transmission” instead. Voters fill out the ballot on their computer, then print it out and either mail it or fax it to the Division of Elections.

Lindsay Kavanaugh, director of the Alaska Democratic Party, said she was not surprised by the error.

“There is a pattern of repeated mistakes, lack of transparency, and lack of voter education from the Division of Elections and Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer,” she said in a written statement.

The mistaken ballots were issued in the same week that an emergency lawsuit unsuccessfully challenged the state’s ballot design. Three federal and state candidates said the new design was biased against Libertarians and independents.

“Alaskans deserve an administration they can trust to focus on things like the accuracy of the ballots, instead of altering them at the last minute for perceived political gain like we saw last week," Kavanaugh said.

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