Alaska: Redistricting Board submits election plan to Justice Department | Juneau Empire

The Alaska Redistricting Board on Friday submitted the redistricting plan it adopted with the Alaska Supreme Court’s approval to the U.S. Department of Justice. The board is seeking required federal approval, known as “pre-clearance,” that the plan does not diminish Native voting power. The plan it submitted, the Amended Proclamation Plan, was adopted after much debate and legal action. The Supreme Court had earlier issued a surprise ruling the board was to draft a plan without consideration of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Alaska: Anchorage City Clerk Submits Resignation | ktuu.com

Anchorage city clerk Barbara Gruenstein has submitted aletter of resignation (PDF) to Anchorage Assembly Chair Ernie Hall. Gruenstein is in charge of the office that runs Anchorage’s elections. Her resignation follows troubled city elections in April, in which election workers ran out of ballots at more than half of the polling places around the city. In Gruenstein’s letter of resignation, she writes, “There have been many successes, but I understand that the problems of the April 3rd election have caused you to doubt the effectiveness of my continuing to serve.” Gruenstein has apologized for the irregularities, which have since been investigated by both the city’s Election Commission and independent counsel hired by the Assembly.

Alaska: Anchorage Assembly Certifies Election Recount, Denies Public Testimony | alaskapublic.org

The Anchorage Assembly certified the recount of the April 3rd Municipal Election Tuesday evening. Several Assembly members pushed for public comment on the certification, but the chair denied it. KSKA’s Daysha Eaton was there and filed this report. The Chair of the Election Recount Board, Denise Stephens presented a report of their work to the Assembly. She explained that 13 of the 15 precincts the Board reviewed closely matched with a few of the precincts off by 1 or 2. At Precinct 840, Service High School, the Board could not find 8 ballots for voters that had signed the register. One possible explanation is that these 8 voters left the precinct without voting after having signed the precinct register. Precinct 660 had a similar result with 6 signatures more than corresponding ballots. The recount resulted in no change in the outcome of the election. Stephens noted that the Election Board did investigate the voting machines.The April 3rd Municipal Election was fraught with problems. An Election Commission report blamed the Clerk’s Office for not distributing enough ballots. More than half of the precincts ran out of ballots.  Assembly members Harriet Drummond requested public comment on the certification.

Alaska: Anchorage Election Recount Results Show Confusion at Polls | alaskapublic.org

An Election Recount Board has released the results of a hand recount of the votes cast in 15 precincts during the Anchorage Municipal Election. The Board spent the past couple of weeks checking paper ballots against voting machine results and voter registries. The 12-person Election Recount Board met at City Hall Monday morning to sign off on their report. They found that most precincts were only off by one or two ballots. But Precinct 840 had 205 signatures more than ballots. Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler was on hand to explain. “The voters apparently signed the voter register but also signed the question register and had their ballots placed in question envelopes. And we think we have them all accounted for with the exception of eight.  It may be, we have some evidence of this, but it may be that those eight persons could not wait in line any longer. And, although they had signed the register, they left without actually casting a ballot, which is why you have more people who have signed than ballots cast,” Wheeler said.

Alaska: Anchorage Municipal Election Recount Heads Into Home Stretch | alaskapublic.org

The hand recount of votes cast in 15 of the precincts that voted in the April 3 Anchorage Municipal Election is heading into the home stretch. The initial recount is done, but workers are recounting seven races and one full precinct again. The Anchorage Municipal Clerk’s Office has completed their initial hand recount of ballots cast in the messy Municipal Election. Barbara Gruenstein is the Municipal Clerk. She’s supervising the hand recount. She says her team finished the count Friday, but found that 7 of the 15 precincts they looked at did not match up, so they are recounting those races again.

Alaska: Confusion holds upper hand as Alaska redistricting deadline nears | Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

With less than three weeks left before the primary filing deadline, confusion leads at the polls. The Alaska Supreme Court ordered Thursday that the so-called “amended” redistricting plan should be used for 2012. The court has not decided on the key constitutional questions raised by Fairbanks plaintiffs who object to the proposed Goldstream/Ester/Bering Sea House district. It’s not at all clear that any new plan will be in place by the June 1 filing deadline for the state primary election. This creates confusion on many fronts, starting with candidates and potential supporters. The next major step may be in federal court, and the issues raised there could lead to a request that the existing districts be kept in place for the 2012 elections while the challenges related to the state Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act are dealt with.

Alaska: Supreme Court Rejects Interim Redistricting Plan | ktuu.com

The Alaska Supreme Court has rejected a request by the Alaska Redistricting Board to use its original redistricting plan for this year’s statewide elections, instead ordering the use of one amended after court decisions as an interim plan. The redistricting plan has been subjected to several legal challenges, with judges rejecting both an initial plan and a revised one in recent months. In its ruling on the original plan, the state Supreme Court said it improperly prioritized compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act over the state constitution, sending the plan back to be redrafted.

Alaska: Deputy city clerk fired in Anchorage election aftermath | adn.com

Anchorage Assembly chairman Ernie Hall fired a key planner in the troubled April 3 election Wednesday, though the city clerk responsible for overseeing the election remains on the job. Hall said he told deputy clerk Jacqueline Duke she was being dismissed Wednesday. The city clerk and deputy clerk are among the employees who serve at the will of the Assembly. Hall made the decision to remove Duke himself but had been talking with other assembly members about it, he said. The city clerk’s office oversees elections and came under fire this year after ballots ran out at more than half of all voting precincts on April 3. On Tuesday, the assembly voted to pay a retired judge $35,000 to investigate what went wrong and recommend ways to avoid similar problems in the future.

Alaska: Anchorage Assembly certifies election, subject to recount in 15 precincts | adn.com

The Anchorage Assembly voted 8 to 3 Thursday to finally certify the flawed April 3 city election, subject to the results of a recount of 15 precincts. The election was plagued by ballot shortages at precincts all around town. Some people voted on sample ballots that couldn’t be counted until after election day. Some would-be voters said they gave up and went home. But a private lawyer hired to advise the Assembly on certification told the Assembly it can’t arbitrarily decide not to certify the election.

Alaska: Voters File for Anchorage Election Recount | ktuu.com

A group of Anchorage voters has formally requested a recount of ballots associated with the city’s troubled April 3 election. The group — consisting of 10 Anchorage voters, and headed by Anchorage attorney Hal Gazaway — is asking that all ballots cast in 15 different precincts be recounted by hand. The recount application, filed late Wednesday afternoon with the city clerk’s office, says the results provided by the optical scan vote counting machines used on election night can’t be trusted. The recount application cites reports of “at least one” malfunctioning vote counting machine. It also cites testimony from a poll worker that a security seal for a vote counting machine’s memory card appeared to be “cut.”  The group asking for the recount also said it was concerned with Deputy Municipal Clerk Jacqueline Duke’s instructions to poll workers that they “ignore and/or replace security seals protecting the memory cards that were ‘broken in transport.'”

Alaska: Redistricting map solutions elusive as court battle looms | adn.com

One of the most important and complicated insider games in politics moves back to the Alaska Supreme Court this week with an appeal by the Alaska Redistricting Board of its method for redrawing the state’s legislative map. In a petition filed Tuesday, the board is asking the high court to overturn a decision by a Fairbanks judge that the board failed to first rely on state law for drawing up “one-person, one vote” districts before adjusting them to prevent Alaska Native votes from being illegally diluted. Native voting rights are protected by the U.S. Justice Department under the federal Voting Rights Act. The Alaska Supreme Court has previously ruled that the Voting Rights Act should be applied only after state requirements are met.

Alaska: Anchorage election: Still not certified | Anchorage Press

Three weeks after an election marred by ballot shortages at precincts all over town, and a report that at least one ballot machine with a broken security seal was in use, the Anchorage Assembly has not hired an outside investigator to sort through the election mess. New Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall made a sobering announcement about the situation at the opening of Tuesday, April 24, Anchorage Assembly meeting. Hall had planned to—and he said, “hoped to”—announce two names that night. One would lead an investigation of election procedures and the other would provide a second legal opinion on whether election results can be certified. (Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler has previously advised the assembly to certify the results. Wheeler is a mayoral appointee whose boss just won re-election—just one of the sticky wickets assembly must navigate.)
“All I can do is ask for your continued patience and assure you that every effort is being made to get these individuals started absolutely as fast as we can,” Hall said. His announcement include a goal, to certify the election at a special assembly meeting Thursday, May 3, which he said also sets a deadline for an outside lawyer’s opinion on certification. “That is one [hire] I am particularly focused on,” Hall said.

Alaska: Voting Rights Group Weighs In on Anchorage Poll Problems | KTVA CBS 11

As Assembly members sort through what happened at the polls April 3, national voting groups say the municipality isn’t the only jurisdiction facing electoral troubles. According to the organization Fair Vote, which pushes for election reform across the country, election difficulties are very common these days. The organization points to places like Connecticut, Miami, and now Anchorage. Fair Vote’s spokesperson says the biggest problem is how ill prepared cities officials are: In Anchorage, the most recent election has been called the city’s most chaotic. Critics say what happened on April 3 undermines the democratic process, and they’ve been complaining. “I’m as concerned about the ones I’m not hearing from,” said Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall.

Alaska: Anchorage Election Commission finds 1/2 of precincts ran out of ballots; recommends no investigation | adn.com

A review by the Anchorage Election Commission found that more than half of city precincts ran out of ballots in the trouble-plagued April 3 elections, according to a report unveiled today. The commission is not, however, recommending a third-party investigation into the election or a new election. “All indications are that ballot shortages for (certain ballot types) were the result of unintended error on the part of the Clerk’s Office,” the report concludes. “While this created chaos during the final hours of the mayoral election, the problem did not meet the standards of malconduct, fraud or reckless indifference on the part of anyone involved.”

Alaska: Redistricting board plans appeal | adn.com

The Alaska Redistricting Board plans to appeal a judge’s rejection of its second stab at redrawing the state’s legislative boundaries. Executive Director Taylor Bickford also said Tuesday that the board plans to ask the Alaska Supreme Court to approve the new plan. As a backup, he said the board authorized its attorneys to draft a petition seeking to use its first plan for this year’s elections. Chairman John Torgerson would decide when any petition would be filed. The high court allowed for that option earlier this year when it sent the first plan back to the board for additional work. The court said that if the board couldn’t draft a plan that complies with its order in time for this year’s elections, it could petition to have the elections conducted under the plan as an interim plan.

Alaska: Anchorage Election Commission Digs Into Ballot Mess | alaskapublic.org

The Election Commission for the Municipality of Anchorage will hold a final public meeting today (Monday) to interview people who were unable to vote in the April 3rd Municipal Election due to ballot shortages. The Commission began interviewing voters Saturday at the Loussac Library. KSKA’s Daysha Eaton was there and filed this story. Dozens of voters sat down with members of the Election Commission in the Loussac Library’s Wilda Marston Theatre to tell their stories in one-on one interviews. Jed Whittaker was one of them. He voted a question ballot, and he was angry to find out that his vote was not counted. He argued with Commission member Sue Kinney. “You are required to follow election law and you didn’t do it. (Commission worker: We did.) No you didn’t. (CW: Well you have to address that with the clerk’s office.) No, tell me how you follow election law when you do not count my vote? (CW: Sir)

Alaska: Final Vote Tally Leaves Anchorage Election Unchanged | Alaska Dispatch

Official election results are in for the wild and flawed April 3 election — which produced the largest turnout in at least 18 years. The new numbers changed no outcomes and huge spreads remain between most winners and losers, according to the municipal clerk’s office. In the most-watched contests, Mayor Dan Sullivan and Anchorage School District board candidate Natasha Von Imhof held onto their leads by blowout margins. Also failing substantially was Proposition 5, an ordinance that would have extended the municipality’s equal-rights protections to gays, lesbians and transgender people.

Alaska: Another day, another rejected Alaska redistricting plan | Alaska Dispatch

It’s been about a month since the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that most recent Alaska redistricting plan failed to strike a balance between federal and state voting bloc requirements, and on Friday a Superior Court judge determined that the latest redistricting failed to meet requirements set forth in the Alaska Constitution. The Supreme Court in March ordered the Superior Court to re-evaluate the plan, which it said placed too much emphasis on the federal Voting Rights Act and not enough on the Alaska Constitution. Superior Court judge Michael McConahy made a similar finding Friday, saying that the plan failed to abide by what the court is calling “the Hickel process.”

Alaska: Election Commission Hears Stories of Problems at the Polls | KTUU.com

Nearly three weeks after a city election fiasco, the Anchorage Election Commission is encouraging voters who had problems at the polls or were unable to vote, to share their experience. On Saturday, the commission was available to meet with individuals who wanted to explain the problems they faced on Election Day. A second meeting is scheduled for Monday, from 4pm-7:30pm at City Hall for those who could not make the Saturday time. According to commission chair Gwen Mathew, the goal is to get a better idea of how many people were unable to vote because of a ballot shortage. “Whether they’re registered voters, whether they were able to cast their vote, what problems they encountered, what went on in the different precincts- we are gathering information from both the voters as well as the precinct workers to get a larger, more comprehensive picture of what actually went on,” said Mathew.

Alaska: New redistricting map draws protests | Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Last week, the Alaska Redistricting Board signed off on a redrawn plan it hoped would resolve a slew of issues that led the Alaska Supreme Court to throw it out, but it’s already facing widespread opposition. Seven parties, including the plaintiffs who first brought the lawsuit and the Fairbanks North Star Borough, filed objections against the redistricting board’s new election district map earlier this week. While the objections have a wide range of specific concerns, the general theme throughout is that the board hadn’t followed the a process set out in an earlier redistricting battle. The process, known as the Hickel Process, requires the board to draw a plan that complies with the Alaska Constitution’s requirements for socioeconomic contiguity and district compactness, then test it against the federal Voting Rights Act before making any deviations to comply with the federal requirements.

Alaska: Assembly Appoints New Leaders Amid Ballot Scandal | alaskapublic.org

The Anchorage Assembly heard emotional public testimony at their regular meeting Tuesday evening. Representatives of the Anchorage chapters of the NAACP and the ACLU, as well as 17 voters called on the body to appoint an independent investigator to look into possible voter disenfranchisement during the April 3 Municipal Election. Instead, the Assembly went about business as usual. With a shadow still hanging over the Municipal Election, the Anchorage Assembly decided to stick to their agenda, appointing a new chair and vice chair. The body voted Ernie Hall in as chair, replacing Debbie Ossiander, and Jennifer Johnston replaced Hall as Vice Chair. Chair Hall said the Assembly’s hands are tied because they’re waiting on a report from the Election Commission. “We would have loved to have had that report tonight, but we think it is much more important that we give them the time to do their job right,” Hall said.

Alaska: Anchorage Assembly Doesn’t Certify Election; Ballots Still to be Counted | KTVA CBS

It’s been two weeks since one of the city’s most chaotic elections. With ballots still being counted and the election still not certified, the question remains if there will be an independent investigation. The Anchorage Assembly did not take up that topic in a short meeting Tuesday night, but that didn’t stop Anchorage residents from voicing their concerns over the controversy. As the close to 14,000 questioned and absentee ballots begin to be counted, it’s what happened two weeks ago that’s leaving people frustrated. With precincts running out of ballots and voters being turned away, the assembly got an earful from a variety of people who said what happened on election day needs to be investigated. “Never has there been so many glaring levels of incompetence,” said Anchorage resident Colleen Murphy.

Alaska: Assembly postpones certifying election | adn.com

The ACLU asked for one last week. Then it was the NAACP. And if a young voter named Laura Herman doesn’t get one, she says, oh, there will be trouble. The Anchorage Assembly better launch an investigation into the city’s trouble-plagued April 3 election, the 23-year-old told Assembly members Tuesday night, or she’s going after their jobs. “There’s a bunch of you that I support on this Assembly, but I will actively be involved in revoking all of you because my voice is being taken away when you decide not to investigate,” she said. It’s not that the Assembly isn’t going to trigger an inquiry into the election, during which ballots temporarily ran dry at about one of every three precincts. Several Assembly members say they’ve made up their minds to do just that. Just not yet.

Alaska: Anchorage Election Officials Hold Brief Canvassing Meeting | ktuu.com

Anchorage election officials held a canvassing meeting Tuesday afternoon that produced more numbers from the city’s troubled elections earlier this month — as well as a nearly denied opportunity for one East Anchorage voter to challenge the rejection of her vote. The municipal Election Commission started its meeting at City Hall at 1:30 p.m., receiving a report on the election (PDF) that listed 14,043 legitimate absentee and questioned ballots yet to be counted. An additional 609 ballots were rejected for a variety of causes, including 159 from voters registered outside the city, 187 from unregistered voters and 142 who registered to vote less than 30 days before the April 3 elections.

Alaska: Anchorage Election Precinct Chair Gathers Signatures for Investigation | Alaska Dispatch

petition calling for an independent review of Anchorage’s botched April 3 election has been delivered to the municipal clerk’s office. Some Assembly members said they might support an independent review at this week’s meeting. The delivered petition had the signatures of 580 Alaskans, said Barbara Gazaway, an election precinct chair who began gathering signatures after experiencing her own glitches in the East Anchorage polling place where she worked. She launched the petition the day after the election as reports surfaced that numerous precincts suffered ballot shortages, forcing many people to try voting at more than one polling place or to cast votes on sample or photocopied ballots.

Alaska: Assembly Appears Swayed Toward Anchorage Election Independent Review | Alaska Dispatch

The Anchorage Assembly is moving closer to hiring an independent investigator to examine the flawed April 3 election, following a recommendation by the city clerk’s office to do just that. Such a move would help reassure those who have lost faith in the offices of the municipal clerk and municipal attorney, said city clerk Barbara Gruenstein, after a two-hour work session on Friday. “The public wants to know more,” said Gruenstein. “It’s real clear that there are certain people that are distrusting my office and (municipal attorney) Dennis (Wheeler’s) office, but we’re open to getting out more information. It’s so sad, all the stuff that’s happened. But an independent person looking at it may give the public the confidence that they need back.” That now appears likely. Four Assembly members who on Tuesday voted against an independent investigator said Friday they could take that step early next week. Their support would likely swing the numbers in favor of an outside review, which failed 4-7.

Alaska: Unscanned ballots tallied as problems investigated in Anchorage | Anchorage Daily News

When some Anchorage precincts ran out of ballots on Election Day, frustrated voters were asked to cast substitute ballots. They selected their mayor using ballots printed for faraway precincts. They marked their vote on a controversial gay rights proposal on blue sample ballots or hastily made photocopies. On Thursday, 1,800 of those makeshift ballots were being counted at City Hall even as election officials and city leaders work to untangle just what went wrong April 3. The replacement ballots couldn’t be counted alongside regular ballots the night of the election because they’re incompatible with voting machines, said City Clerk Barbara Gruenstein. “These are the ones that people showed up at their own home precincts … but there was a shortage of ballots,” Gruenstein said. “So they voted a sample ballot that won’t slide through the machine.” The city will release results of the 1,800 “unscannable” votes as soon as they become available, Gruenstein said.

Alaska: Anchorage Assembly Votes Against Independent Council To Investigate Election | alaskapublic.org

The Anchorage Assembly has voted ‘no’ on appointing an independent council to investigate the Municipal Election and called a special work session to review the situation. The announcement comes a week after polling places ran out of ballots. Rhonda Matthews holds her right to vote dear. She’s voted in every election since she was 18, except when she was stationed overseas with the Air Force. She is one of the people who contact the ACLU of Alaska to report that she was not able to vote during the municipal election. “I don’t care what side of the politics you’re on, it has to do with the right to vote and I was denied that,” Matthews said. Matthews first went to her voting precinct at Klatt Elementary School just after 7 pm on April 3. That’s where she says she was turned away by an election worker in the parking lot who told her they’d run out of ballots and directed her to vote at the Alaska Club on O’malley.

Alaska: Anchorage Assembly Votes Against Independent Council To Investigate Election | alaskapublic.org

The Anchorage Assembly has voted ‘no’ on appointing an independent council to investigate the Municipal Election and called a special work session to review the situation. The announcement comes a week after polling places ran out of ballots. Rhonda Matthews holds her right to vote dear. She’s voted in every election since she was 18, except when she was stationed overseas with the Air Force. She is one of the people who contact the ACLU of Alaska to report that she was not able to vote during the municipal election. “I don’t care what side of the politics you’re on, it has to do with the right to vote and I was denied that,” Matthews said. Matthews first went to her voting precinct at Klatt Elementary School just after 7 pm on April 3. That’s where she says she was turned away by an election worker in the parking lot who told her they’d run out of ballots and directed her to vote at the Alaska Club on O’malley.

Alaska: Anchorage Election: Voters Share Their Precinct Nightmare | Alaska Dispatch

Mad dashes between polling places in search of ballots, a voting machine that didn’t work and a frustrated voter who threw up her hands and went home highlight three real-life accounts of the chaotic April 3 election, according to affidavits collected by the American Civil Liberties Union. The stories are just an initial sample of what went wrong on April 3, said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of ACLU Alaska. The group is working on confirming another 160 more complaints regarding disenfranchisement and systemic difficulties at the polls, Mittman said in an April 10 letter to the Anchorage Assembly.  One of the disenfranchised was Rhonda Matthews, who works in the Federal Aviation Administration’s traffic and quality control office. She tried voting at Klatt Elementary School a little after 7 p.m., according to her affidavit. But there were no ballots. Go to other polling places, including one at the Alaska Club on O’Malley, she was told. When she got there, polling employees said she couldn’t vote at that site — without saying why. Go to the airport, they told her. She had 15 minutes before polls closed, and gave up when she realized she wouldn’t make it to the airport in time. “I decided to go home from the Alaska Club and was not able to vote.”