Alaska: Anchorage Assembly endorses vote-by-mail election in 2017 | Alaska Dispatch News

The Anchorage Assembly unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night to support conducting the 2017 city election by mail, rather than by in-person polling precincts. In a vote-by-mail election, the city will automatically mail ballots to every registered voter in Anchorage, deputy clerk Amanda Moser said in a recent interview. Voters would no longer visit a polling precinct on Election Day to fill out a ballot. Officials have been exploring the change for several years and say it will boost low voter turnout in city elections.

Alaska: Anchorage Assembly votes to recertify runoff election after ballots found | Alaska Dispatch News

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday recertified the mayoral runoff election, taking into account 58 ballots not previously tallied that altered the result by 0.01 percent but did not change the outcome. Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones, who oversees municipal elections, said the bulk of the uncounted ballots were found inside a silver ballot box in a conference room in City Hall. Absentee ballots sent by mail are moved between three rooms — including the conference room — and two floors during the counting process. The day after the Assembly certified the runoff election on May 19, staffers discovered the silver box with the ballots still in their envelopes, she said.

Alaska: Anchorage Assembly votes to move 2017 election date to November | Anchorage Daily News

The Anchorage Assembly voted Tuesday to change the date of the regular municipal election from April to November starting in 2017. Assemblyman Chris Birch, who introduced the measure, said that moving the city’s elections would boost voter turnout, citing historical data that recent city races have drawn 20 to 35 percent of voters, while there has been a 50 to 60 percent turnout for recent state races held in the fall. The ordinance passed in a six to four split, with Assembly members Tim Steele, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Paul Honeman and Dick Traini opposing the change. Patrick Flynn was absent from the vote. Mayor Dan Sullivan has said he supports the switch. While some Assembly members offered other solutions to amp up voter turnout, like switching to mail-in votes or connecting voting to Permanent Fund Dividends, all who commented stressed the need to bring more voters to the polls.

Alaska: Anchorage Lawmakers Consider Election Law Changes |

The Anchorage Assembly is closer to deciding what changes might be in store for next year’s Anchorage city election. In April, several polling places ran out of ballots, sending voters across town to try and find a place to vote. The changes, meant to avoid a similar ballot shortage next year, may involve everything from where extra ballots are stored, to when people can protest a decision from the city’s election commission.

Alaska: Anchorage Still Cleaning Up Election Mess |

The Election Commission will hold the final public canvass session to count ballots from the troubled municipal election in Anchorage Thursday. The ballots were found uncounted in a closet in city hall in July. The room where the 141 missing ballots were stored after they were found in July.  After nearly four months, Anchorage officials say they hope the canvass will begin to shut the door on a messy chapter in the city’s election history. The canvass will be followed by final certification of the election, later this month. Anchorage Assembly Chair Ernie Hall says it’s important to make sure voters have access to the canvass. “What happens at the canvass is if you voted in the election and for some reason your vote was disqualified, you’re notified in writing that your ballot is not going to be counted, you have the opportunity to come to come to that canvass and protest your ballot not being counted,” Hall said. “Maybe it’s misunderstanding, you were not in the wrong district, for whatever reason but it gives you a chance to come in personally and say, no you’re wrong. I am an eligible voter and my ballot should count.”

Alaska: 141 More Ballots Found in Closet at Anchorage City Hall |

Just when everyone thought the messiest chapter in recent Anchorage voting history was closed, Municipal Leaders confirm that they have found more than 100 uncounted ballots leftover from the flawed April 3 Municipal election. Officials say Clerk’s Office staff discovered the uncounted ballots in a storage closet in the Assembly Conference room on the first floor of City Hall last Wednesday. And where could so many ballots disappear? A staff member who city officials didn’t want to name showed me. “Staff: This is the door to the room inside the Assembly Conference Room. Daysha: And this is basically just a corner room about the size of a large walk-in closet, right? Staff: Correct, with windows. Daysha: Where exactly were the ballots? Staff: On the tables in black bags.”

Alaska: Report blames Anchorage ballot woes on inexperience and neglect | Anchorage Daily News

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.

Alaska: Report: Anchorage Election Botched by Mismanagement, Cost-Cutting | Alaska Dispatch

Hands-off management, cost cutting and inexperienced staff — not politics or intentional efforts to influence outcome — were primarily responsible for Anchorage’s embarrassing April municipal election. That’s according to a nine-page report by a former Alaska Superior Court judge hired by Anchorage Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall to investigate what led to ballot shortages at nearly half the city’s polling places, with some residents turned away, unable to cast a vote. The April election, which included votes for mayor and a contentious initiative to add sexual orientation to the city’s equal-rights protections, turned out to be one with higher turnout than expected or planned for by the Municipal Clerk’s office. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan handily won re-election in the vote. Sullivan took his second oath of of office Monday via Skype from Hawaii, where he was vacationing with his family, according to a statement from his office. Proposition 5, which would have made it illegal to discriminate against Anchorage residents because of sexual preference or gender identity, failed.

Alaska: New Report on Botched Anchorage Election Says City Broke its Own Election Laws |

A new report, released by a group of Anchorage voters who paid for a partial recount of April’s botched municipal election, calls into question several of the processes employed by election workers both on election night and during a recount afterwards.  It was presented in front of the Anchorage Assembly today, by Anchorage voters Linda Kellen Biegel, Melissa Green, Carolyn Ramsey and others. The report also says the city violated its own election code, known as Title 28, when election workers handed out photocopied or sample ballots in place of official ones when polling places ran dry.

Alaska: Anchorage City Clerk Submits Resignation |

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 |

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 |

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: Deputy city clerk fired in Anchorage election aftermath |

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 |

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.

Editorials: Anchorage grading itself in integrity of election | Shannyn Moore/

Remember standardized testing when you were a kid? You’d fill in those ovals with that Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2 until your eyes bugged out. Schools provided “smart snacks” of carrots and apples on testing days. I’m sure you’re good, honest folks, but what a horrible position to put you in. “Oh, I knew this answer, I just forgot.” That’s basically what Anchorage Assembly chair Ernie Hall and the “election commission” appointed by Mayor Dan Sullivan, did this week. They graded their own performance on a debacle of an election and said, “There’s nothing to see, nothing wrong, and we don’t want anyone else to grade us either!”

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: Assembly Appoints New Leaders Amid Ballot Scandal |

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 |

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 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: Anchorage Assembly Votes Against Independent Council To Investigate Election |

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 |

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.