The Anchorage city clerk’s office relied on an inexperienced deputy to run the trouble-plagued April 3 election, didn’t send enough ballots to polling places and failed to realize the depth of the problem as inevitable shortages began, a new report says. Released Monday, the review by independent investigator Dan Hensley spreads blame for the chaotic election among the outgoing city clerk, the now-fired deputy clerk who handled Election Day details and Assembly members who were not aware of the potential problems. Voter outcry over ballot shortages at more than half of Anchorage precincts spurred the review. “He hit it dead on. I think all of us became complacent over the years,” Assembly chairman Ernie Hall said of the findings. The Anchorage Assembly voted May 8 to pay Hensley, a retired Superior Court judge, up to $35,000 to conduct a month-long investigation. Hensley said he found no evidence of intent by any city or election workers to sway the election or influence voting results. Instead, the report describes a combination of inexperience, hands-off management and short-sighted planning that left printed ballots unused at City Hall even as Anchorage residents scrambled from precinct to precinct looking for a place to vote.
“In sum I encourage changes in the Municipal Clerk’s Office and Assembly practices so that election duties attain the level of focus and importance they deserve,” Hensley wrote. He recommended additional election training for city employees and poll workers, a review of election training guides and more formalized Assembly oversight of the clerk’s office.
Reporting to Hall, Hensley said he reviewed hundreds of pages of records and interviewed or reviewed prior interviews of more than 60 election workers, city employees and others. Hensley was unable to determine just how many people the ballot shortfalls prevented from voting. He said poor planning for the election should not be blamed on a lack of staff in the clerk’s office.