Anchorage Voters Ask for Do-Over Election After Tuesday's Voting Issues
City clerk's office continues counting ballots
ANCHORAGE – As the city clerk's office continues counting ballots from Tuesday's municipal election, both the city attorney and the Alaska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union are researching potential remedies for would-be voters frustrated by a shortage of ballots and official envelopes at multiple precincts.
So far, the margin of success for Mayor Dan Sullivan over challenger Paul Honeman and the margin of defeat for the equal rights initiative known as Proposition 5 might both be so great that the election outcomes on the two biggest items on the ballot are mathematically beyond question.
But there are poll workers and voters who believe a new election is warranted, regardless.
"I want a real ballot," shouted a man at Hanshew Middle School Tuesday night.
Voters and precinct poll workers at numerous locations expressed frustration that they ran out of ballots and could not get re-supplied quickly enough from the city clerk's office downtown, with delays of an hour and longer.
"Some people just felt it wasn't worth it to try and vote if they had to go through all this trouble,” said poll worker Mandy Gershon. “Some people were driving for hours trying to find a place to vote."
"The rationale may have been, we don't want our precinct workers to have to deal with boxes and boxes of ballots that they're never going to use, so we're just going to keep them down here and take them out when we need them," said poll worker Connie Sumida.
Municipal Clerk Barbara Gruenstein said turnover was heavier than expected, but acknowledged that many ballots had been held in reserve in her office, as she said is routine.
"It's hard, but it's very, very sad that people didn't get to vote or they felt they couldn't stand around until the ballots came. But we tried."
Some voters said they went to three or four polling places before they were able to cast a vote.
"I don't believe this was a valid election,” said voter Judith Dolan. “I don't believe that it should stand, regardless of who won, what propositions passed or didn't pass."
Everyone seems to agree some level of disenfranchisement occurred, but the question is, is it actually possible to restage the election?
City Attorney Dennis Wheeler said that is the last remedy the court would look to. “It's obviously a very expensive undertaking, and as the mayor noted, in this particular case so far, the spreads are so great that even if you could come with an estimate of what the disenfranchisement number might be, it may have no impact whatsoever."
The local ACLU chapter has established a hotline for voters who feel they were disenfranchised.
"As a general rule, if the outcome of the election were changed because of improprieties or irregularities in the election, that would obviously be very serious and would warrant further action," said Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman.
What Gruenstein calls “the universe of numbers” is still being charted.