High Tensions, Low Turnout Mark Election Commission Special Meeting
Local lawmakers and citizen commission members begin their review of controversial April election
“I could sit here for another half-hour,” he said, standing up from the table and striding towards the door. “I think a civil suit is coming down the line.”
The dimly lit theater was silent behind him as he stomped out. He said he needed some water and a cigarette – after attending the morning meeting to share his story, he said he was left feeling like his problems fell on deaf ears. Calling the meeting a “dog and pony show,” a pointless preemptor to certification, he said he planned on talking to an attorney about his legal options. He had never heard about the public canvass before today, and believed he deserved punitive damages in return for a gross violation of his civil rights.
“My vote should have been counted,” he said, eyes flashing. “Is this a banana republic?”
Back in the theater, Kinney said her job entailed interviewing voters and precinct workers in hopes of illuminating the problems of April 3. She recorded their answers on a pre-printed worksheet: The questions covered everything from ballot presentation to time frames, wait periods and conversations with election officials throughout the day.
The interviews were exhaustive, but Kinney said it wasn’t without cause. The last ballot shortage had occurred in 1989, when voters had flocked to the polls over a hotly contested marijuana initiative, and Kinney said they needed to find out why it happened again. While roughly 140,000 ballots had been printed, dozens of precincts had fallen short, but more than 60,000 ballots remained unused the next day. Ultimately, she said the commission was formed by Anchorage citizens who were just as concerned as everyone else about the integrity of the election.
The last question on the interview form asked voters and precinct workers for suggestions for improving future elections. Some input included extra security measures surrounding the Diebold AccuVote machines, and one voter gave commission members a detailed account of a documentary she had seen on mechanical voter fraud.
“It was called ‘Hacking Democracy,’ I saw it in 2006 on HBO,” she said animatedly. The gray-haired commission member nodded.
But at the end of the day, there weren’t many suggestions. While the meeting ran through 4 p.m Saturday, only a handful of people had filtered through the theater over the first several hours. Pamela Hawley, who’d acted as precinct chairwoman at Russian Jack for the past twelve years, said she attended to meeting to tell commission members what she had done when there were no more ballots.
When the regular cards ran out, she told a commission member she directed voters to use questioned ballots. When there were no more of those, she said she supplied them with paper sample ballots instead, promising voters she would take the cards to City Hall herself and explain the situation.
“I promised them a lot of things, I told them it was my job to make sure they had a chance to vote,” she said, leaning forward in her chair. “I was hoping I was right.”