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Friday, January 28, 2022

The Hand Count of Botched Anchorage Election Doesn’t Follow Code

There have been two positive developments recently regarding the audit and hand count of the recent fouled up municipal election. First, Ernie Hall apologized from his seat as Chair of the Assembly to Wendy Isbell for how she was treated in a recent Assembly meeting.

Second, Jacqueline Duke, the unqualified Deputy Clerk, whose immediate past employer was Chili’s, and who somehow landed an $82,000 a year job fouling up elections, misinforming poll workers, and being utterly unpleasant to anyone who asked legitimate questions, was fired. Also by Chair Ernie Hall.

But not everything is rosy. The following statement to the press was issued by the group of ten citizens (including Linda Kellen Biegel of The Mudflats) who have petitioned for a hand recount of ballots cast in 15 precincts on the April 3rd Municipal election.

In Hand Recount, Municipality Fails to Follow Rule Of Law, Security Protocols

Hand Counting Procedures not Following Municipal Code / Recount Procedures

Anchorage, AK — Wednesday was the first day of the April 3rd Municipal Election Hand Count of 15 precincts, initiated by 10 Anchorage qualified voters through the Election Recount process (AMC 28.90.010). The group’s official observers witnessed numerous issues:

— The ballots are stored in a closet with windows, an unsecured acoustical tile ceiling and a common lock on the door handle.

— The interior of the “ballot vault” appears to be a storage closet containing stacks of boxes, envelopes, drawings, ballot bags, and other items. Municipal Clerk employees had to dump out a box of manilla envelopes filled with fascimile ballots in order to find the correct precincts.

~The interior of the “ballot vault”

— Vote tallies in five out of the first six precints counted did not match the Accu-Vote count the entire morning. It wasn’t until lunch time that Municipal Clerk & staff discovered they had brought out the wrong facsimile ballots.

— Counters are working in teams of two with no one doing any back-up checking. An observer witnessed several mistakes getting through both members of one team and notified the Municipal Clerk.

Attorney Hal Gazaway, one of the 10 voters who signed the Election Recount Application to initiate this hand count, documented more of the procedural anomolies in a letter today to Assembly Chair Ernie Hall — a follow up to a similar letter presented yesterday. Several of these issues are a flagrant violation of Municipality Election Law:

1. Failing to include absentee and questioned ballots for each precinct per AMC 28.90.040.C.

Wednesday, the election workers completed their count of Precinct 675. But the staff did not bring out for counting the ballots cast by early voters, absentee voters, or the questioned ballots. You acknowledged the Municipality keeps questioned ballots by precinct, but the Municipality does not count them in the precinct count. However, that does not exempt them for the requirement of a hand count in order to comply with AMC 28.90.040.C.

If the Municipality cannot separate by precinct the absentee and questioned ballots, then to be in compliance with AMC 28.90.040.C, the Municipality must count them all.”

One of the issues Gazaway identifies is especially concerning. It deals with the practice of using “facimile ballots.” These are created when any ballots that cannot go through the optical scan machines are copied onto regular ballots by poll workers. According to the 2012 Municipal Election Recount procedures distributed Wednesday to all poll workers, observers and some of the media:

“Facsimiles must be kept with the original; after each race is tallied, the facsimile must be returned to the manila envelope with its original and placed inside.”

According to hand count observer Mel Green, a temporary Municipal Clerk’s Office employee stated that some of the facsimile votes are kept in a manilla envelope seperate from the one holding the original ballots. This was witnessed by multiple observers yesterday. The worker also explained that the both the originals and the facsimiles were kept in the same order in their seperate envelopes so they could be matched up if necessary. It was unclear how the facsimile ballots that were mistakenly distributed and counted would now be matched up after their order was changed.

Per Hal Gazaway:

“Assembly Chair Ernie Hall and other members of the Assembly expressed their firm resolve to follow the “rule of law” when voting to certify the election. We insist that they display that same resolve and follow the “rule of law” during the hand count of the election.”

It’s interesting to note that the temporary worker, named Seth, who spoke of the fact that the original ballots filled out by voters, and their corresponding facsimilie ballot (original ballot copied by poll workers on to a ballot that would be read by the Diebold scanner) were NOT kept with each other, but just “in the same order” in completely separate envelopes, is no longer working for the Municipality.  Gruenstein said he was already leaving, because he was a temporary employee, but that he just decided to resign a few days early. She gave no reason why.

~Seth, in the “ballot vault.”

Gruenstein’s explanation of why this happened was also odd. She said that it was Seth’s fault and that he misunderstood and was applying the wrong procedure to the facsimilie ballots. He was treating the regular facsimilie ballots (where the originals were filled out at polling places) as though they were abstnee facsimilie ballots (ballots transcribed by election workers that weren’t part of the regular process). But that should not matter. Why would absentee ballots, sent in by voters, and then hand copied by election workers on to another ballot, not be kept with their originals?

The Municipality seems determined not to cooperate on matters of absentee ballots. First, they are saying that they will not count the absentee or questioned ballots in the 15 precincts affected by the hand count, in violation of the code. (see above) Then, they are saying that counting the original, voter-completed ballots is out of the question. Gruenstein was asked by one of the ten signers. She then went to Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler who said no how, no way, no counting of the original ballots. Isn’t that curious?

Another interesting anecdote for you who remember the Joe Miller v. Lisa Murkowski vote count issues of 2010. Remember the whole “fill in the oval” issue? Even if a voter spelled Lisa Murkowski’s name correctly, the law stated that the oval on the ballot must also be filled in for the vote to count.

A counter called Gruenstein over to the table with a question. They were counting a facsimilie ballot (copied from the original by an election worker). The name on the ballot was a write-in, and the oval was not filled in. But remember, this was not the original ballot. Gruenstein told the counters not to count that ballot. Did the original have the oval filled in? Did the election worker forget to fill in the oval? Was it an oversight? Maybe the original had the oval filled in. We have no way of knowing voter intent, because the actual ballot filled out by the voter is off-limits according to the Clerk, and the Municipal Attorney. Checks and balances? Not so much.

Yesterday was the first day of counting and the observers were not provided a copy of the tally sheets from that day. Mel Green has assurances from Barbara Gruenstein, the Clerk, that at the end of today, she will receive copies of both yesterdays tally sheets and today’s.




28 Responses to “The Hand Count of Botched Anchorage Election Doesn’t Follow Code”
  1. Wonder how long before Sully decides to change the section of the AMC regarding voting and recounts to one word: Diebold.

  2. Really? says:

    This “count” is disturbing. The “ballot vault”, what a total joke.

  3. zyggy says:

    This is all crazy, hard to believe this is happening in a major city. One would think the mayor of that city would be embarrassed, or at least try and work on this problem. I suspect Sully is off having “beverages” with Duke talking about the good ol’ days.

    • Ivan says:

      not hard to believe at all,
      i have had no faith at all that elections in this country are free and fair.
      incompetence, corruption and manipulation.
      i can not have trust or faith in a government that is actively working at removing the civil rights of its citizens, keeping them in fear and distraction them with trivial media stories labeled as “news”.

  4. Kat says:

    Complete corruption – no inefficiencies here – a deliberate attempt (probably successful) to steal an election. Expect the same in November & in any red state or district.

  5. GoI3ig says:

    The muni has set the bar really low on this election. I wonder if they will ever top this fiasco?

  6. WhichTruth says:

    I guess we’ll find out what kind of integrity our Assembly has when it comes to following the law. We already know about the integrity of the voting process.

  7. Birdy B. says:

    Clearly, the only proper thing to do is throw out the April 3rd election and just have a new one. We should have plenty of leftover ballots that all have the right stuff on them, after all — the cost of printing up whatever number we need to make up the shortfall shouldn’t be that much. Oh, and we should do it WITHOUT Diebold’s “help”.

    [Expletives redacted for volume], what is WRONG with these people? Do citizens have to start rioting or something to get them to do things correctly?

  8. Valley_Independent says:

    Facsimile ballots should not be created.

    If the machine can’t ballots, hand count them and add them to the machine tally later.

    This avoids the possibility of introducing errors in copying from the original, and the possibilities of counting the wrong ones or both the original and the copy in a recount, and losing track of which is which.

    The tally of the ballots read by machine and the ones read by hand should equal the number of people that signed in at the polls plus the absentee and early voters.

    The question we may never know the answer to is “Why did they make it harder than they needed to while making the system more vulnerable to errors and fraud?”

  9. Ndjinn says:

    Is the clerks office trying to make things worse?

  10. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    Once again I have to say I think this is just a dry run so to speak for a multitude of shenanigans that will be implemented in every venue dominated by republican officials, usually SOS.

    #1 what is all this moose puckey about facsimile ballots? If the bloody Diebold machines cannot count original ballots then why are they counting ANY ballots?

    #2 How are the facsimile ballots supervised? Errors of transcription alone would be significant for an honest transcriptor, what about a deliberate intent to skew results? Simple, don’t fill in the oval!

    #3 what happened to the baseline count of all ballots cast? Until you know that you don’t know anything about the actual results.

    #4 The chain of custody is more like a bird’s footprint of custody. A joke. Given the integrity of the election officials involved here one might consider dumpster diving to look for discarded ballots though by now of course that would likely be too late and who know, despite their apparent cluelessness they might have been smart enough to shred them and take them home to start fires or wood stoves.

    #5 This process does not even touch all the questions concerning the tabulating machines themselves and whether or not they were compromised.

    #6 There is no investigation. Yet there is strong evidence that election laws were broken. Selective application of the rule of law is the hallmark of lawlessness.

    I’ll stop there, though I could go on. I have to say, though I do admire the persistence and diligence of those in ANC who want to sort this out, you have already lost. The chicanery going on now with the recounts is just a little icing on the certified election cake.

    What is wrong here? I think it is very simple, only something like 30% of the eligible voters even showed up to vote. Assuming nothing was done to discourage those die hards. If 70% of the electorate is too lazy to find out how they are being abused by their overlords, then there is not much the rest of us can do to bring about a change unless we can wake them up.

    Perhaps it would be appropriate to start with a question from an old Woody Guthrie song…
    Which side are you on?

  11. Writing from Alaska says:

    Keep it up. Feet to the fire and all that, metapborically speaking. 😉

  12. merrycricket says:

    What a mess! It just keeps getting deeper!

    • COalmostNative says:

      Maybe the Count should count- this could be several new episodes on Sesame Street 😉

  13. Maria says:

    If that’s what a municipal election is like, what is the National Election count going to be like?

  14. benlomond2 says:

    Do these city people actually know the rules, or do they just make them up as they go along ???

  15. Zyxomma says:

    Anchorage, I’m so sorry your municipal election was so effed up, so completely. There’s just no excuse good enough for it. And the beat goes on.

  16. Motorhead says:

    HEY, it’s our old buddy, The Count!! “VUNN ballot… TUU ballots … ZREE ballots… ”


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