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The Not-So-Public Election Meeting – (Updated Photo)

~Mayor Dan Sullivan and Deputy Clerk Jacqueline Duke (R) celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day at McGinley’s Bar of which Sullivan is part owner

A hastily-called Saturday meeting of the Election Commission was the scene of some interesting and dramatic revelations. Overheard comments that Assembly Chair Hall will be restructuring a vital committee to install Adam Trombley as Chair, and angry voters who were denied the right to speak to the entire body dominated the day – at least for me.  The actual testimony , however, was not able to be heard by the public.

Private testimony and “anticipated volume”

The meeting, announced less than 48 hours before it happened, came to order promptly at 10am. Those who had experienced voting problems, and election workers were invited to participate. Members of the Anchorage Election Commission sat in chairs behind a series of three folding tables set up on the stage. Four other folding tables were set up behind the first section of seats. No podium was present, which seemed curious at first. The Chair of the Election Commission, Gwen Matthew, announced that the commission would be taking testimony at a series of tables, in one-on-one private conversations between those who came to testify, and whatever commissioner they were assigned to. It was “because of the anticipated volume” of people expected (at this poorly advertised meeting with virtually no notice,) Matthew explained.

~The Wilda Marston Theater, as I entered at 10:00am

This didn’t sit well with those present, which included a few who were there to testify, and a handful of citizens who had come just to hear the testimony. There was loud murmuring, and looks of concern and disbelief were exchanged. Jed Whitaker, who had come to testify that his vote had not been counted, was outraged by the lack of transparency in this “public” process, and the inability to address the entire commission. He raised his voice in objection.

The Protest

As he began speaking, Deputy Clerk Jacqueline Duke who was sitting on the stage  (far left in picture above) raised her voice almost immediately. “I’m sorry sir, this isn’t open to public comment right now for the meeting. We’re going to break into interviews and you’re welcome to meet with the commissioners.”

“You know, if I speak to one commissioner then that means, the way you set it up, that the other commissioners will not hear what I have to say, and I find that objectionable,” Whitaker said.

“You will be heard, we will copy down your information, and we are sharing all of these with everybody. Everybody will hear all this information,” offered Gwen Matthew Chair of the Election Commission. By “all of these,” Matthew was referring to forms that the commissioners would use to interview voters. And by “hear,” we can only assume she meant that the notes as written would be shared with other commissioners.

“Yeah. Like you read the election law.” Whitaker said in weary frustration.

“Sir! You’re out of line,” interrupted Duke.

“I think you’re doing us a disservice,” said Whitaker.

Duke, half under her breath, but within my earshot, responded, “Duly noted. Thanks.”

“I’ve never seen any public body break up like this,” Whitaker continued unabated. Never. Apparently, you’re not interested in hearing what I have to say. You’re making this at your disposal. We are here for you, rather than you being here for us.”

During this time, Duke had walked over to him and they exchanged words. I couldn’t hear the conversation. After she left, Whitaker stood with a piece of paper with prepared testimony he had planned to deliver to the entire commission.

“So, let me just talk. It’s the only way you’re going to hear what I have to say.” He began reading aloud. “My name is Jed Whitaker. I voted in the Municipal election…”

Duke stomped out of the room. Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler had, by this time, gotten out of his seat and headed for Whitaker.  I didn’t hear what he said, but found out afterward.

( 00:34 )

“…Somebody made the decision that they weren’t really interested in hearing from the people as a whole. They wanted to interview, one-on-one, people who had a problem like myself. I objected, because I thought what I had to say was pretty important, and I thought all the commission members ought to hear what I had to say. And they weren’t interested. In fact, the City Attorney came up to me, and told me that I was being disruptive and that if I didn’t play their game that they were going to call security. And I thought “Really? Are we living in a police state? You really don’t want to hear what I have to say? And I had to ask him… he’s the City Attorney… “Why are you acting like a cop?” Amazing…. Amazing.”

The following clip shows the opening of the meeting described above, starting  just after Gwen Matthew (center stage) told everyone about the interviews, and the commission’s decision to take testimonies in that manner because of the “anticipated volume” of people they were expecting. You can just hear Jacqueline Duke (sitting to the side of the steps) saying “Duly noted. Thank you.”  I pan over as she sweeps out of the room. You can also see Municipal Attorney Dennis Weaver, sitting between the camera and Whitaker, and getting up to approach him.

So, what did Whitaker want to say to the commission? I asked him. If he hadn’t spoken out, and if I hadn’t asked him later, neither the Election Commission as a whole, nor the public would ever have an opportunity to hear it. Here’s what he had to say.

At the onset of the meeting, which was scheduled to last from 10am to 4pm, there were only about four people present to testify, and about about 10 people involved with the commission, or from the Clerk’s office.  Clearly the “volume” of participation (the reason given for the one-on-one meetings, out of the visibility of the public as opposed to public testimony) was not a problem. During the course of the meeting there was never a line, and there were always empty tables available. At 11:35, three of the commissioners were even sent home because they had nothing to do.

~Chair of the Election Commission Gwen Matthew (center). Beware – High-Traffic Area!

“This is like having a meeting before the Assembly and only taking to one Assembly member,” one woman observed after entering the room.  “They can just take from it whatever they want.”

The Jacqueline Duke School of Charm

Deputy Clerk Jacqueline Duke eventually reentered, and greeted an elderly woman who looked like she was waiting to testify. “Would you like to speak to a commissioner,” she asked, saccharine sweet.

“NO. I wouldn’t like to speak to A commissioner…” the woman said, eyes flashing.

“Oh. OK.” As soon as she realized that the woman, like others, was unhappy with the process, she immediately reverted to her previous level of patience and charm.

“I’d like to speak to the whole freaking bunch of them!” the woman said to the unresponsive Duke who had already begun walking away and out of the room , rolling her eyes.

Hall tells commissioner he will appoint Adam Trombley (despite massive conflict of interest)

Assembly members Dick Traini, Paul Honeman, and Chair Ernie Hall made appearances during the course of the meeting.  Hall went around from table to table talking to the commissioners who had been taking testimony.

~Assembly Chair Ernie Hall talks to an election commissioner

I heard one commissioner, who was seated at a table just a couple feet from where I was sitting, make comments that she had thought that it was good to have a one-on-one interview because people would feel more comfortable, but that she’d heard from more than one person that they didn’t like it, and had wanted to speak to everyone. Now, she was having second thoughts about the process and wondered if it was a good idea to do it this way after all.

Hall smiled. “I’ll be putting together a strong committee to look into this,” he said. “Adam Trombley is chairing it. He’s going to make a good Assemblyman. He’s a nice young man.”

“Yes, he is a nice young man,” the commissioner agreed.

Since Hall has already announced that an independent investigator will be hired, we can only assume that the committee he is “putting together” is, in fact, a restructuring of the existing Assembly Ethics and Election Commission, currently chaired by Assembly member Harriet Drummond.

The “nice young man” Adam Trombley is the newest member of the Assembly, and as you may recall, is a favorite of Mayor (and in this case, Candidate) Dan Sullivan. Sullivan appointed Trombley (who had little or no experience) to the City’s Budget Advisory Committee  after he lost his first bid for an Assembly seat. Trombley also lost that election to the other mayoral candidate in this election, Paul Honeman. Trombley is hardly impartial in his feelings about the two main candidates in this race. You can refresh your memory about that HERE.

Mayor/Candidate Sullivan endorsed Trombley’s second, successful Assembly run.  And now it seems that incoming Chair Ernie Hall is assigning the newest, and least experienced Assembly member with a double conflict of interest to head this commission, when Harriet Drummond (the current chair, and tough, number-crunching bulldog) is perfectly happy to continue in that role.  If for no other reason than to avoid the appearance of cronyism, and impropriety, Hall should rethink this decision before announcing the change.  Having someone who got his leg up in politics via a political appointment from one of the candidates, and who ran against the other in this disputed election, leaves his impartiality suspect to say the least. It’s also a very bad way for the incoming Chair to convince anyone he has any neutrality.

If Sunlight is the best disinfectant, we have a problem…

The  commissioner, sitting at her table and talking to Hall, went on to say that a precinct chair had come in to testify, and brought with her numbers from previous years that were apparently causing her great concern. I can’t tell you what the numbers were, or why they concerned a precinct chair enough to come give testimony on a Saturday morning. If that woman had been permitted to speak at the podium and talk before the entire commission and the public, I’d be telling you about it right now. But I can’t. Neither you or I have any idea what her story is.


“Well, the election commission has been amazing,” Ernie Hall assured her in a low soothing voice. It reminded me of when Election Commissioner Gwen Matthew called our bottom-of-the-barrel Diebold AccuVote system, infamous for it’s corruptibility, “utterly amazing.” Clearly, the word “amazing” when having to do with the Election Commission has a fuzzy interpretation.

The Elephant in the Room – Broken seals and how they got that way

Mel Green from Bent Alaska and I were commiserating while the slow trickle of people came in, and gave testimony. We agreed that one of our main frustrations in this process has been the lack of interest in discussing the Diebold AccuVote system itself, and the fact that Deputy Clerk Jacqueline Duke, the sole person training poll workers, had told them in training to ignore broken security seals on the machines’ memory cards. They break all the time in transport, she told them. She also indicated that there were additional seals that they could use, and to just put a new one on if the seal was broken.

Poll worker Wendy Isbell, who went through Duke’s training, reported this information to The Mudflats – and that the seal on her polling place’s machine was, in fact, broken. Jacqueline Duke confirmed that she’d told poll workers to ignore broken security seals in an interview with investigative journalist Brad Friedman, who writes extensively on election integrity issues. Friedman has stated that machines with broken seals should immediately be taken out of service, quarantined, and forensically audited.

Plastic seals over memory cards — the extremely sensitive cartridges that hold the ballot design and track the election results tallied from the scanned paper ballots throughout the day — became a mandatory security precaution in the wake of the shocking 2005 hack of a mock election in Leon County, FL which succeeded in completely flipping the results of the election in such a way that one would never know it had been manipulated unless all of the paper ballots were counted by hand.

Green and I agreed we’d ask Ernie Hall, just to make sure that he understood our concern, and was planning to investigate that particular issue. I taped as Green asked Hall the question. She laid out the entire issue carefully, and then asked if it would be investigated. The exchange that followed was… interesting.

Watch the video to hear Green’s full background and question to Hall. She asks specifically if there will be an investigation into Jacqueline Duke admitting to telling election workers to ignore the broken security seals on voting machines.

Green: Are you going to be investigating this?

Hall: We are investigating.

Green: Are you going to be investigating this issue. This specific issue.

Hall: That’s…. the answer I just gave you.

Green: You said you were investigating, but you didn’t say you were going to be investigating this issue. That’s a pretty general term.

Hall: You didn’t address anything in your entire statement other than that question.

Green: Are you going to be investigating Duke’s instruction to election workers to ignore broken security seals on ballot boxes?

Hall: I don’t know which one of us are having problems with our communication skills here. You’ve been very clear in the question that you’ve asked me, and I was very clear in my answer that yes, we are.

Green: What you said is “We will be investigating.” That’s a general statement. You could be investigating any number of things, but not this particular issue.

Hall: I’m not going to debate with you. I answered your question.

Green: So, in other words, we don’t know if you’re going to investigate.

Hall: You can come to the conclusion you want. You asked a very clear and specific question.

Green: I did, and you said “we are going to investigate.”

Hall: And I said yes.

Green: OK, you will be investigating Duke’s instructions to election workers.

Hall: That is the whole purpose of the third party investigator, is to deal with those issues.

Green: OK. We will look forward to hearing the election commission actually asking that specific question, as well as all the others.

Hall: Right. Very good.

Green: Thank you.

Hall: Thank you.

Hooray! Casey Grove of the ADN covers the story

Casey Grove at the Anchorage Daily News finally addressed the question in a story published on the 21st.

Among those who did show up was Wendy Isbell, an election worker who also testified at Tuesday’s Assembly meeting. Isbell says she saw voting machines with broken seals, plastic pieces designed to prevent someone from tampering with a memory card that counts votes.

“I don’t see how they broke,” Isbell said. “They’re impossible to break. They were evenly cut.”

When another worker asked about the broken seals, Isbell says Deputy Municipal Clerk Jacqueline Duke told the worker, “If they’re broken, don’t worry about it.”

I wondered at the meeting if the forms that commissioners were using to interview election workers, and voters, asked about the Diebold machines. Were voters asked how the machine functioned, and whether they as citizens had confidence in the system and the result of elections? Were election workers asked if the seal was broken on their machine? Were they asked about the training they had received?

The forms

I asked if I could have a copy of the forms, and Barbara Gruenstein, the Municipal Clerk, was kind enough to get me a copy of each. The first form was used to interview voters who had a problem voting on election day. The second was used to interview election workers.

The announcement of the meeting also indicated that the commission would have the opportunity at this meeting to interview members of the Clerk’s office. There did not appear to be a form for that, nor did I recognize anyone from that office being interviewed in the time I was there.

The full Election Commission would, hopefully, see each form that was filled out, but ultimately would rely on a hand-written interpretation of someone’s story. Only one form had a very small space for “notes.”  Even if there was other notepaper available, nothing can substitute for testimony. A transcription is the only way to tell what someone had to say. Important information that an Election Commissioner doesn’t recognize as such might be omitted. The Chair of the Election Commission says she’s never even heard about security issues with the Diebold machines, so you can imagine what might get overlooked.

Mudflats chats

Before I left, I thought I’d speak to a few of those who had come to the meeting either to testify, or to hear the testimony of others. I found some interesting, informed people, with much to say.

Judy Whitaker

“All of the members of the commission are supposed to be listening to all the complaints.”

Dana Klein

“Since they all (the Election Commission and the Clerk’s Office) work for the Mayor, who was a candidate, there’s no real way for them to distance themselves, because of the conflict of interest involved… because they are appointed by the Mayor…”

“… the voting machines were tampered with. The seals on the machines were gone, or open, and they were told just to get another seal and put it on there…”

When asked about Commission Chair Gwen Matthew’s comment that the Diebold AccuVote machine is “utterly amazing” and almost “totally accurate.”

“I find that statement to be completely ignorant, to be honest with you. That’s a person who has never investigated the machines – their history, their reputation – by anybody other than the manufacturers.”

On why the mainstream media, for the most part, ignores this issue

Jed Whittaker

On his discussion with Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, who is charged with overseeing elections on the state level.

“I said, you Google it and you’ll come up with the MIT students who hacked the AccuVote machine, and you’ll find out. And he kind of looked at me like a deer in the headlights…”

“… Mead Treadwell. Ugh.”

“It’s not about who won the election, it’s not about which proposition failed or passed. It’s about walking away knowing that the process was free and fair, and that all the votes were counted, and that we have a democracy in this country.”

“What they want is to put a rubber stamp on the process… to say, “Yeah, we made some mistakes, but we’re correcting those mistakes,” so that the Assembly can, in turn, certify the election and say, “Hey… everything’s alright. Go back to sleep.”

The next meeting of the Election Commission will be Monday, April 23 at City Hall at 4:00pm in City Hall. They will take more testimony, and may also speak with members of the Municipal Clerk’s office. There is no indication whether these interviews will take place in public, or whether they will be recorded. The Commission will meet two days later to adopt the report to the Assembly.

Also, a special meeting of the Assembly will take place Thursday, May 3, at 5pm to adopt the report and certify the election. Normally, Assembly meetings are held on Tuesday nights.



28 Responses to “The Not-So-Public Election Meeting – (Updated Photo)”
  1. Really? says:

    Thanks for your in-depth coverage again, Mudflats. The bright side of all this, to me, is knowing that truly the majority of our fellow Anchorage neighbors really did vote Yes of 5 and do care about the rights of others, for a tolerant, diverse Anchorage. The truth is just covered is a whole lot of mean, complicated unjust ugliness.

  2. KittenStCyr says:

    I’m voting absentee in-person from now on.

  3. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    Kath the scrappy – legalized fraud is pretty on point I would say. I find the whole thing to be beyond the absurd. You Po’ folks in anchorage who are not tight with the dominionist cabal are just plain screwed. They are not a majority, but they are when only 27% of the electorate takes part in an election. So one has to wonder what the hell is up with the 73% of voters who stand aside and let the nuts take over? This is the real issue. Why don’t people vote?

    Think about it for a minute, the system is structured to give an advantage to an ehtusiastic minority.
    Is that democracy?

    • Ivan says:

      Why don’t people vote?
      because they are under the mistaken impression that they are free and that they will remain free and that this is America, know-one can take there freedom from them: they are the chosen.

    • akfirefly says:

      Why don’t people vote? Here’s one reason. I’ve heard the following from many individuals lately. How many of you have noticed in the last few presidential elections alone, that the winner is often declared long before the votes in Alaska have even begun to be tallied. That gives a lot of them the impression that their votes just don’t mean much; this impression then spills over into local elections. Now with the current vote fiasco, why should anyone even bother. Sullivan’s attitude seem to be, “If you didn’t vote for me, then it doesn’t matter anyway” or worse “If you don’t vote for me in the future, don’t bother voting period.”

  4. Jag says:

    Great FARKism: DUKE SUCKS!

  5. Kath the Scrappy says:

    GREAT reporting AKM! So glad you allowed these people to get their thoughts out to the general public – they were all so very articulate!!!

    This election & investigation is so poorly done, I just can’t help thinking it constitutes legalized fraud. Keep watching and reporting. My guess is that many Alaskans read your blog, even if they don’t post. Somebody needs to bang the wakeup call that this election process is ‘fishy’.

  6. Ice Gal says:

    Welcome to the city of teebags

  7. Ndjinn says:


  8. akfirefly says:

    The photo above of Dan, with ‘ladies’ in tow doesn’t surprise me much; but where, if any, are there any of him and his wife. He’s beginning to remind me of Hugh Hefner.

  9. Writing from Alaska says:

    Could they just possibly stop doing stupid stuff?

  10. Simple MInd says:

    This is the nightmare scenerio for Ernie Hall, who ran for election on the “aw shucks” platform as your neighborly neighbor who thinks we can meet in the middle and all be friends. (Not understanding, of course, that “middle” for Sullivan and Prevo is somewhere to the right of Michele Bachmann.) He now finds himself the leader of an Assembly that is responsible for running elections AND that election turned out to be a messy, public clown show of stunning incompetence and possible malfeasance. His buddies over at the Sullivan camp would like this all to shrugged off on the “no harm-no foul” theory – in other words, your vote doesn’t count because you’d have lost anyway. Ernie would rather talk it over – endlessly – until everyone falls asleep with their heads on the table. The problem is that he is theoretically the head of this posse of Keystone Kops. If the Assembly doesn’t try to fix this, they look like idiots. What to do? What to do? No wonder he’s grumpy.

  11. Moose Pucky says:

    How do folks in Anchorage have the patience to deal with problems at the polls and after the polls?

    Such manipulation of public process when folks who have already had enough trouble go the trouble to present testimony and then are told “one-on-one” only.

    No trust in that.

  12. leenie17 says:

    “I don’t know which one of us are having problems with our communication skills here.”

    How incredibly arrogant and rude!

    Mel was being very specific about her question and he was deliberately being vague. I certainly got the impression that he had no intention of ‘investigating’ that issue and was just trying to shut her up so she’d go away. Kudos to her for not letting him and good for you for getting it on video.

  13. All I Saw says:


    Bingo was his name-o.

  14. AKblue says:

    The repeated tactic seems to be:
    stall, drag out the process, do a mediocre job (make it LOOK like something is being done), let the furor die down, and go back to business as usual.

  15. akfirefly says:

    The Chair of the Election Commission says she’s never even heard about security issues with the Diebold machines, so you can imagine what might get overlooked.

    What the hell …does Gwen live in a friggen cave?? These idiots need to find new careers; either way were screwed again with the current assembly.

  16. Pinwheel says:

    Maybe one reason the ‘media’ isn’t covering this part of the election is comments like KTUU reporter saying on the air from election central Sullivan’s numbers seemed right, he’d done a pretty good job. Editorializing like that could discourage one taking their concerns to the media sufficient that the media thinks this a non-story/event.

  17. Ivan says:


    tar $ feather,
    on a rail.

    round em up,
    send em to hell.

  18. juneaudream says:

    I think I can see..the Monday meeting..from here..and waaay-early. Lets see..(as I close moi eyes..and concentrate..yes..yesss..I can see it now) the cast of..Unhelpfuls..arrives..takes center stage..and all face the curtains..with a strange attire. Over their normal clothing choices..each has a tiny sally-rally skirt around their waists. So..when they bend over..we have that unifying design..but Lo! There are..’additions’..from these other assorted ..’meetings’. Harvested assorted feathers from whatever ‘birds’ they consort with..strange plumages-all. Hanging down..almost to their knees. And a dream..those ….syncopated Hineys..start the Dance..all over again…swing..swing..hipswoosh..ahhh yes..aren’t they lovely…? 😉

  19. mike from iowa says:

    Ignorance is bliss. No wonder so many rwnj appear as happy as a pig in s%$t. One can only hope this is isolated and then reality hits you in the face. It is widespread,where ever rwnj roam the halls in power.

  20. GoI3ig says:

    Most banana republics would be proud.

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  1. […] Apr 2012. “The Not-So-Public Election Meeting – Overheard and Over-wrought” by Jeanne Devon (The Mudflats). (Includes video […]

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