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Friday, January 28, 2022

Election Commission Meeting Part Deux: The Silence of the Duke

by Linda Kellen Biegel

Jeanne did so much work on the first Election Commission Meeting, I felt like Monday was my turn to show up at the continuation. So, I packed my daughter in the car (if one can actually pack a 14-year-old) and headed out. We got there in time to beat the rush hour so we got a parking space in the City Hall lot (yay). I saw several media vehicles there.

Morrigan kept the radio on in the car and I ran upstairs to Rm 830, the Mayor’s Conference Room.

When I walked in, I saw Jacqueline Duke exactly as you see her above…sitting in the back of the room all alone. Her face reminded me of a little kid in trouble.

I snapped a few pictures of the room.

There seemed to be a little more traffic than it appeared on the first night. While there were Commissioners who were not busy, people kept coming in at regular intervals so there were always several folks being interviewed. It was about 5:00 pm.

Municipal Clerk Barbara Gruenstein and new Assembly Chair Ernie Hall (Gruenstein’s new boss) were deep in conversation.

Other than the Commissioners, the interviewees, the two Municipal Clerk employees and Hall, there was no one else in the room. It was quite obvious that the current location did not lend itself to media “hanging out” as all of the conversations overlapped.

I asked Hall and Gruenstein about the turnout. Hall said that they had about 20 or so people just in the first hour and it wasn’t even “rush hour” yet. Gruenstein also explained that part of the increase could be attributed to the fact that some of the folks had been “called in”. They had requested the presence of the precinct chairs so they could interview them.

So, after I snapped a few shots, I started to pack up. Ernie Hall had just left so I exchanged pleasantries with Ms. Gruenstein. Internally, I was screwing up my courage to ask Duke a few questions.

I turned to Duke and said, “Could I talk to you for a minute?” She silently turned her head away and looked out the window.


Gruenstein jumped in, “You’ll have to direct all questions through me or Ernie Hall from now on.”

There it was. I was actually amazed that it took them this long to silence her. You would have thought that her damning revelations and attitude on Brad Blog would have been enough:

Duke told me on Monday that the municipality did, in fact, print enough ballots for 70% of registered voters. So why did so many polling places run short of ballots, forcing poll-workers to instruct voters to go to the Airport or the University of Anchorage-Alaska (UAA) to cast an “absentee” ballot?

“There’s really no mystery to it,” Duke told me. “Just because you’re required to order 70%, doesn’t mean you’re required to send 70% to each precinct.”

Though the municipal code requiring enough ballots for 70% of the registered electorate “within each precinct,” seems fairly clear, Duke doesn’t see it that way, it seems.

And then there was Duke admitting to Brad Friedman that she was training her poll workers to ignore instructions in the Official Municipal Election Manual:

Duke confirmed to me that she had instructed poll workers not to worry if security seals on memory cards are found broken when setting up machines on Election Day.

“They come sealed in the Accuvote cases and often times in transit they bust off because they’re the flimsiest pieces of plastic ever,” she told me. Sometimes that leads poll workers to “freak out.”

She tells them that if they “open the case and can obviously tell the broken seal was from transport, you do not have to be worried. There are more in your supplies.”

Duke instructs the workers to “re-seal it, and then run the zero report tape” to “confirm that your poll count is zero.”

Then, there was Duke’s “handling” of a disgruntled citizen during the first Election Commission Meeting, caught on video by Jeanne:

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.”

However, I’m betting the final straw was the conversation she had with Casey Grove of the Anchorage Daily News during that first election meeting. Allegedly, it was enough to generate some angry phone calls.

Duke, also at the meeting, said she saw no voting inaccuracies during testing of the machines.

“There are a lot of tests done prior to the election to prevent hacking, which is what these people are talking about,” Duke said.

Any evidence of fraud could easily be rooted out with a recount, Duke said. She also said Isbell’s retelling of her instruction about the broken voting machine seals was incomplete.

“What I said was, ‘If you open up on election morning, and you see it’s clearly broken from transport, don’t worry, I have extras,” Duke said.

The plastic is “flimsy,” she said, and can break easily. That’s not evidence of vote fraud, she said.
“I think perhaps people are unhappy with the (election) results, and they’ll find anything they can,” Duke said.

The Municipal Clerk’s Office is suppposed to remain neutral throughout this entire process. There was nothing neutral about Ms. Duke’s comments. It was clear, if it wasn’t clear before, that she had chosen a side.

Now Gruenstein and Hall, like parents, had to take her in hand.

Perhaps things might have been different if that had occurred BEFORE the election.

I asked Barbara Gruenstein if one of the results of all of this would be a completely re-written election manual, including instructions on what to do if a precinct ran out of ballots. She told me that would absolutely happen. I also clarified whether the Commission was going to present the report at tomorrow’s Assembly Meeting as it’s listed on the agenda. Gruenstein assured me that it wasn’t ready and wouldn’t be until Thursday, May 3rd. (On the Assembly website it currently says Saturday, May 5th. I just called the Clerk’s office and they said the May 3rd date is correct…they are going to fix the website immediately. Just another service I provide…)

I came to the question I wanted to ask Duke. I asked where Duke received the instructions that she passed on during the poll worker trainings…instructing them to ignore the broken seals …instructions that contradicted what was stated in the Election Manual. I wanted to know what authority provided those guidelines.

Barbara Gruenstein said that she was unable to answer that question. Once I had realized I couldn’t speak to Duke, that was the answer I expected to receive. No one but Duke COULD answer that question.

When I left the building and went down to the parking lot, I ran into several members of the media. I struck up a conversation and asked if they got a chance to talk to anyone upstairs. It turns out that Duke would not return calls and Gruenstein refused to answer questions on camera.

However, I was excited when I surmised that the reporter had read Jeanne’s Monday piece regarding the first election meeting. The reporter referenced a video that sounded like Melissa Green’s “discussion” with Ernie Hall, where Green was trying to get him to specifically commit to investigating the Diebold machines “broken seals.”

As a result, that reporter asked Hall the same question!

So, the media is asking the questions. Assembly Chair Hall knows they are under a microscope.

We still need you to remind them that you are watching as well.

Tonight’s Anchorage Assembly Meeting is the last time the public will get an opportunity to address the Assembly before they receive the Election Commission Report and vote on May 3rd whether or not to certify the election.

It looks like tonight’s agenda is very short. Waiting until after the meeting to speak won’t be such an arduous affair. Plus, it would be a good idea to show up as close to 5:00 as possible, in case they decide to skip dinner and plow through.

I hope to see you all there!



24 Responses to “Election Commission Meeting Part Deux: The Silence of the Duke”
  1. Elstun Lauesen says:

    Here in Anchorage we have a botched election with evidence of possible tampering of voting machines and the Sullivan majority on the Assembly is going to push through certification of the election based on a compliant Election Commission and a group of incurious politicians. The Republicans at all levels in this state do not care about process, they only care about outcome. Voter suppression in a potentially tampered election…eh…who cares? It’s all about winning.

  2. 24owls says:

    What is so wrong with doing the right thing and telling the truth? People in position to follow proper instructions, follow the rules, run a clean election, certify the results. Rinse, wash, repeat – city wide, county wide, state wide. I may be a dreamer but I’m not the only one, take my hand and join us and the world can live as one – thank you John Lennon. What is so wrong with the freakin’ truth?

  3. FISHEYE says:

    So when is ACLU or some other group or person going to sue to have another election?

  4. hedgewytch says:

    Well ADN didn’t have a story on this today. Nor did I see anything on the KTUU web site.

    So where is the media?

  5. BeeJay says:

    Dear Linda and Jeanne,

    You both have done a wonderful job of this story. I am appalled at the ‘official’ reactions and proud of you Anchorage-ites (?) who have decided that that is not good enough. What a mess you have to clean up. Far too many people in the elections process owe Sully or work for him (same thing actually) for it to be anywhere near clean. The first picture in Jeanne’s article said it all: the Deputy Clerk overseeing the election is partying in the bar that the Mayor partly owns. Shouldn’t she have been in election headquarters making sure it all works? Not very savvy that one.

    Kudos, and thank you!

  6. By the way, I can now reveal that one of the media folks I talked to was KTVA and they did talk about the seals in the story…yay!

  7. Simple Mind says:

    In the United States, we have been holding elections, from the smallest village to the entire nation, for over 200 years. Add to this fact that we are the most wealthy and one of the most technologically advanced countries on the planet. And yet, in a simple municipal election where under 80,000 votes were cast, we managed to completely screw it up. The people in charge strongly deny that there was any catastrophic failure or intentional mischief. If that is true, then the only remaining reason why this election turned into a clown show has to be ….. the people in charge. Therefore, it is odd that Ms. Duke seems so hostile to people who are trying to find out what happened. If, as she seems to say, that the machines worked perfectly and there were no unexpected factors involved, then the reason the election was screwed up had to be ……… her.

  8. Zyxomma says:

    Anchorage, I really feel for you. As many of you know, starting in 1969, I was one of the people (there were many of us) who carried around petitions to get 18-year-olds the right to vote. At the time, 18 was old enough to get drafted, and one of our slogans was “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.” (18 was also the legal drinking age in most states, so some people preferred “Old enough to drink, old enough to vote,” though I wasn’t one of them). I turned 18 in time to vote in the 1972 elections, and it meant a lot to me, even though Nixon was re-elected. I never take my vote for granted, and vote in both primaries and general elections.

    Keep fighting for your vote, Anchorage. It’s worth it.

    • John says:

      I always thought we should have raised the draft age instead of lowering the voting age. Not that I’m against 18 year olds voting; I just think people under 26 are too young to go to war.

  9. WhichTruth says:

    Nip it in the bud. It�s not about the outcome of this election. It�s not really even about this election. It is about the integrity of the process. It is about future elections, such as the one this coming November. Without trust in the integrity of the system, voter turnout will drop even lower. Of course, this is the goal of some.

    I am appalled at the cavalier attitudes shown toward our rights to vote, the security of the vote, and accuracy of the vote. Many before us paid for this right with their blood, and we watch it being squandered away through indifference, ineptitude and malfeasance.

    We send those wearing our uniform around the world to face grave danger, yet we fail to stand up for the basic cornerstones of our democracy here at home. I sometimes wonder if my time wearing the uniform was in vain.

    At a minimum, we need a forensic audit of the security, logistics, and accounting. This includes a complete inspection and review of the memory cards and the GEM files. Any certification done before these actions are complete should be challenged unless based on a hand count.

    We, the citizens, need to know the contents of these GEM files from this election:

    Statement of votes cast
    Election summary report
    Sum candidate counter

    If you have any doubts about the need for this information, you must watch these two videos.

    It is time to draw a line in the sand for the integrity of the voting process�the cornerstone of our democratic process.

    • WhichTruth says:

      I emailed the above post to the entire Anchorage Assembly. I just received my first response:
      “Thank you for your note and your thoughtful comments.


      ( Name)”

      I Replied: “Thank you for your automated response. At least it is a response.

    • leenie17 says:

      The frightening thing is how this incident could represent many thousands of similar problems around the country. Yes, it may be a relatively small election with an apparently predictable outcome, but it is one example of how the system and the equipment used in that system are corrupted, both in terms of technology and in terms of the process.

      For a country as developed as ours, with a history of promoting democracy around the world (often with violent overthrow, as in Iraq), we are certainly being very dismissive about problems with our election integrity. It does not bode well for the accuracy of our November election…and that scares the hell out of me.

      • Pinwheel says:

        leenie, Exactly, this Anchorage municipal vote is a “relatively small election with an apparently predictable outcome, but it is one example of how the system and the equipment used in that system are corrupted, both in terms of technology and in terms of the process.” It’s a great laboratory. Perhaps because we are so small it should be much easier to deconstruct what happened, redo the vote, count by hand. We are not Seattle, Chicago where volume would preclude our ability to fix this, quickly. But, we should not have to continue to try to operate with such a botched system.

  10. zyggy says:

    this part needs to be explained ““What I said was, ‘If you open up on election morning, and you see it’s clearly broken from transport, don’t worry, I have extras,” Duke said.”

    extra voting boxes w/o broken seals? Extra seals? Even the idea of having extra boxes should show that it has happened before with the broken seals. As far as amazingly accurate, how would they know? What would they compare the accuracy to? Your prior elections shows accuracy is not a highlight in Anchorage.

    lol Linda about packing your 14 y/o.

  11. juneaudream says:

    I do ..see..her facial expression but..the duke..body parts I found..revealing..were the crossed legs, the arms closely held and..the jacket..folded close. Usually..these mean the trying to ..protect themselves. Since she is a physically lovely woman..I am guessing she has grown to adulthood..with people..usually trying to do her bidding or..seeking approval from whos social circles..mattered to her parents. and now…the husband. The choice of large flambouyent earrings..rather than small studs, given her jacket choice..says reams also. Veeeery interesting. Again..a pictures is worth more then..oh..ya know how that goes… 😉

  12. David Otness says:

    Duke looks an awful lot like Congressman Paul Ryan (on a bad day)..

    • Pinwheel says:

      David, you have something going there.

      Thanx Linda. There must still be advanteges to the written word.

  13. mike from iowa says:

    Imagine if you good guys could only get one of these weasels to come over to the bright side and turn on the rest of them,what stories they could tell. Of course the standard reply would be that any turncoat is a disgruntled ex-player who didn’t toe the line and wants to make trouble. Good job LKB,as per usual.

  14. akfirefly says:

    Sounds like Duke gets her communication skills from Don Young; such as “You are out of line, sir!”
    Next I expect to hear from her: “Sit down, shut up, and you will speak only when spoken to!” Time to remind those on the Assembly, that they work for us, not the other way around.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] and witnessed during the bollixed April 3 municipal election. (The Mudlats also reported on part 2 of that meeting held on Monday, April 22, after Deputy Clerk Jacqueline Duke had apparently been given a gag […]

  2. […] respond to the email I sent to the address she gave me when we spoke. As a matter of fact, according to The Mudflats’ Linda Kellen Biegel, who tried to ask Duke a question at a recent Election Commission meeting called to investigate the […]