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.
Also on Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska announced it had made a public records request calling on the city to produce detailed paperwork that would reveal how many ballots were sent to each precinct, the names of people who voted questioned ballots and other information.
The latest counting effort, which began at 2 p.m., is one more step toward learning exactly how many people cast eligible ballots in the city elections and whom they voted for. A trickier question — how many people tried to vote but were unable to because of the shortages? — will be harder to answer.