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Hand ballot count in close West Anchorage Assembly race set for Saturday

  • Author: Kyle Hopkins
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published April 12, 2013

Note: An updated version of the Saturday ballot counting has been posted here.

Update, 7:15 a.m. Saturday:

City election officials are set to begin a hand-count of the too-close-to-call West Anchorage Assembly race on Saturday morning while also resuming processing absentee and questioned ballots from the April 2 city election.

Election workers spent the day - and much of the night - Friday going through thousands of absentee and questioned ballots, with observers from the campaigns of Assemblyman Ernie Hall and write-in challenger Nick Moe watching. They worked until midnight. Ballots weren't tallied, so the official count still has Hall leading Moe by 93 votes.

In an email sent at 12:36 a.m., City Clerk Barbara Jones said the decision had been made to finish processing the remaining ballots on Saturday. That will begin around 10 a.m. in Room 155 of City Hall, she said.

Meanwhile, the hand count of all the ballots cast in the West Anchorage Assembly race, including examination of write-in ballots, will begin at 8:30 a.m. in Room 155, she said.

New results will be posted after the questioned and absentee ballots are processed, she said.

We'll be covering the vote counts on Saturday. Check back for updates.

Original story: In the West Anchorage Assembly race, a vote for 'Nick Moo' counts

"Nick Moo" is acceptable. So is writing "Knick Moe" and "N. Mow."

"Tommy Moe," however, will not be allowed.

Those are the guidelines city election workers will use Saturday to determine what misspellings of write-in candidate Nick Moe's name will be admissible as a hand count of all ballots cast in the too-close-to-call West Anchorage Assembly seat election

With Assembly chairman Ernie Hall leading Moe by a scant 93 votes, the eight-member Election Commission began counting the final remaining ballots Friday at City Hall. The count of more than 5,500 absentee and questioned ballots had not been finished as of late Friday.

The Hall campaign estimated that no more than 1,000 of the votes are in the contested district, said volunteer Bonnie Jack.

City clerk Barbara Jones said the new count will be posted on the city website,, when completed. Some of the votes were cast before Moe announced his write-in bid two weeks before the election, though the 26-year-old hoped to offset the late state with a early voting push on Facebook and with text messages late in the race.

"This is a volatile race, and it's just a matter of who got their voters out," said Hall campaign manager Ira Perman.

As the Election Commission slowly counted ballots stacked in blue plastic crates in the belly of City Hall, observers from both campaigns peered over shoulders and scribbled on clipboards. Some carried a five-page memo from city attorneys that declared which spellings and permutations of Nick Moe's name would be counted as legitimate write-in votes.

"Minor misspellings and phonetic variations of 'Nick Moe' should be counted for Moe if the voter clearly intended to vote for that candidate," city attorneys wrote.

Among the other "acceptable" spellings: "Nic Mo," "N. Moa" and simply "Moe." Not acceptable? "Pick Moe," "Click Moe" and "Moa."

At stake is the balance of power in the right-leaning Assembly, which allied with Mayor Dan Sullivan in a successful push to weaken the power of city labor unions in March. Moe, 26, said he entered the race because he was outraged at Hall's decision to end a public hearing on the labor proposal while people were still waiting to testify.

Hall voted for Sullivan's plan, which eliminates the power of city government unions to strike or to have binding arbitration in salary negotiation and limits pay increases. The proposal passed 6-5 on March 26 even as unions began to rally behind Moe.

Money flooded the long-shot campaign. Unions gave Moe $6,500 over 19 days, and the Alaska Democratic Party donated $500. Mark Begich, whom Moe challenged as a 19-year-old in the 2006 mayoral election, gave him $300.

Hall, who had been running unopposed until Moe jumped in the race, hardly campaigned, if at all. He raised little money until late March when developer Bob Penney and seven others gave $500 each.

The Moe campaign also called on supporters this week to donate money for a potential legal battle over the election results. Among the campaign's concerns are a Thursday night ruling by the Election Commission that would reject write-in ballots cast by West Anchorage voters who cast their ballots in person in another district on Election Day.

For example, if a voter from West Anchorage visited the wrong district in East Anchorage and wrote-in Moe's name against unopposed Seat H Assemblyman Paul Honeman, that vote would be rejected, according to the clerk's office.

"How can we know that voter intended that vote to count in (the Hall/Moe) race," said Amanda Moser, deputy city clerk for elections.

Moe said his campaign has raised "thousands of dollars" for legal fees.

The city clerk's office has also said ballots cast by voters who wrote in Moe's name but failed to fill in the oval will not be counted, under city law.

The Election Commission on Thursday rejected more than 110 ballots cast citywide because they arrived after the voting deadline or the voter was not registered in Anchorage, among other reasons. It was unclear how many of those ballots were cast in the West Anchorage race.

The total of rejected ballots includes 11 ballots dismissed by the commission because they were not signed by an election official -- even in cases where the voter properly filled out the ballot and was not at fault.

Twitter updates: Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334 or email him at


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