Anchorage election update, 10 April 2012
by Mel Green
An update of news about Anchorage’s highly problematic April 3 election since our story of yesterday morning. Bent Alaska urges Anchorage voters to attend tonight’s Anchorage Assembly meeting.
ANCHORAGE VOTERS: The April 3 election is supposed to be certified at the April 17 Assembly meeting. But it should not be certified until an complete & independent investigation of election irregularities takes place. EVERYONE WHO CAN come to tonight’s and next Tuesday’s Assembly meetings. Loussac Library (36th & Denali), Tuesdays, April 10 & 17, 5-11 PM. Wear red, white & blue and/or American flag pins for the people who have fought and died for your right to vote. Even if you can’t make it to these Assembly meetings, write to your Assembly members and demand a through and complete independent investigation. Contact them all at email@example.com or individually here.
Bent Alaska will also be livetweeting from the Anchorage Assembly meeting tonight @bentalaska (after I get there, anyway).
Previous Bent Alaska stories
On the morning after election day, we posted our first story about the April 3 Anchorage muncipal election and its immediate aftermath. Yesterday, we posted a lengthy, in-depth update. Catch up on both stories here:
- 4 Apr 2012. “Another few laps: Reports of Prop 5′s demise are premature (& proof Minnery knew he was spreading false information)” by Melissa S. Green (Bent Alaska).
- 9 Apr 2012. “Anchorage’s April 3 election: Some answers, many more questions” by Melissa S. Green (Bent Alaska).
Some new developments since our yesterday morning post.
Municipal Clerk issues Media Advisory 5
First, as anticipated, the Municipal Clerk’s office issued its Media Advisory 5. Its biggest news is that it will be meeting in public session on Friday, April 13 beginning at 10:00 AM to declare which absentee and questioned ballots will be rejected and which will be counted:
Any person present at the public session of the Canvass may challenge the name of a questioned or absentee voter if he/she has good reason to suspect that the voter is not qualified to vote at the election, or the ballot has not been properly cast under the standards in section 28.80.040.
The clerk’s office says nearly 55,000 votes were “successfully counted by the optical scanning machines” (reported elsewhere as being Diebold machines, about which there are questions of reliability), but that the total count of votes will increase as other votes are counted from unscanned ballots, roughly 6,000 questioned ballots, about 4,489 “Absentee in Person” (early voting) balots, 98 faxed ballots,”whatever returns from the over 3,000 Absentee Ballots mailed”, and votes cast at the Airport and UAA Absentee Polling Places on election day.
The clerk’s office also apologized:
We apologize to the community. We had sufficient ballots, but did not allocate enough of the ballots to the individual precincts, given the turnout and number people who voted outside of their precincts. The use of an outside payroll vendor was not a factor.
See these resources:
- 9 Apr 2012. Media Advisory 5 (PDF). Municipality of Anchorage, Office of the Municipal Clerk.
- 9 Apr 2012. “Anchorage Election Officials Apologize for Ballot Shortages” by Chris Klint (KTUU Channel 2 News).
Anchorage municipal attorney issues media advisory, says elections irregularites unlikely to invalidate election
Municipal attorney Dennis A. Wheeler issued a media advisory laying out what he says established legal precedent for why last Tuesday’s vote is, in his opinion, unlikely to be considered invalid. He included a 1989 opinion from the municipal attorney of that time with regard to a similar-but-different ballot shortage issue during an Anchorage election that year:
In regards to the particulars of this election, a very: similar situation occurred in 1989. Back then, our office was asked to provide advice on the standards and court rulings regarding election results affected by a ballot shortage. As discussed in that opinion (attached), it is critical to have a good understanding of the results for each affected precinct and, if warranted, apply the rule of proportionality to those precincts. For example, if a precinct voted 60/40 for one candidate or issue, then the votes that were not cast because of a ballot shortage are generally allocated in the same proportion. In effect, the uncast votes do get counted. We are reviewing current court cases and laws and will provide the results of our work to the Assembly.
It should be remembered at this point that Wheeler has an important conflict of interest in this case: he serves as municipal attorney at the pleasure of the mayor, Dan Sullivan, who stood for reelection in last Tuesday’s election and, according to results so far, won handily.
Wheeler’s media advisory prompted a number of stories in local media. The Anchorage Daily News also posted a 1989 ADN story about the investigation of that year’s ballot shortfall. The most detailed story about Wheeler’s memo comes from the Alaska Dispatch’s Eric Christopher Adams, who in particular went into the “rule of proportionality” discussed in Wheeler’s media advisory:
Here’s a simple explanation of “proportional allocation.” Let’s say your precinct ran out of ballots at 5:30 p.m. Prior to running out of ballots, 55 percent of votes had gone in favor of a proposition and 45 percent had opposed a proposition. Based on the 1989 legal analysis, votes that were not cast because of a ballot shortage would be “generally allocated” by that same proportion — 55/45. So voters who turned up after 5:30 p.m. but were turned away would be divvied up based on how those voting from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. had voted.
Is that a fair standard or application of the law?
“Absolutely not,” said ACLU of Alaska Executive Director Jeff Mittman in an interview with Alaska Dispatch Monday afternoon.
“The supposition of proportional allocation is absolutely ridiculous. To presume that the demographic of voters who showed up between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. is the same demographic that would show up from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.” is preposterous, Mittman said.
Who votes mid-day? Retirees, senior citizens, voters predisposed to certain values, Mittman contended. And who votes late in the day? Young voters, professionals, people with different values and ideologies.
“To presume you just somehow ‘up the vote’ for one side or the other just makes everything worse,” Mittman said. “It takes a highly problematic election and makes it a grossly problematic election.
“We already know voters were disenfranchised” with 53 of 121 precincts running out of ballots, Mittman added. “This is a fact.”
As we wrote yesterday, Mittman and the ACLU of Alaska, of course, have their own interests in the outcome of the election: Mittman is a member of the Campaign Leadership Team of One Anchorage, the organization which brought Proposition 5, the Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative, to the ballot; and the ACLU of Alaska contributed $10,000 to the One Anchorage campaign. Unlike Wheeler, however, Mittman and the ACLU of Alaska are calling for an independent special counsel to investigate the election — a step which Wheeler appears to want to avoid.
- 5 Apr 2012. “Re: Recommendation for Appointment of Special Counsel
Review of April 3, 2012 Municipality of Anchorage Election,” letter from Jeffrey Mittman, American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, to Debbie Ossiander, Chair, Anchorage Municipal Assembly.
- 9 Apr 2012. Media advisory from Dennis A Wheeler, Anchorage Municipal Attorney (PDF). Municipality of Anchorage, Office of the Municipal Attorney.
- 9 Apr 2012. “Preliminary city review shows election results may stand: Assembly will make final call on ramifications of ballot shortage” by Lisa Demer (Anchorage Daily News).
- 5 Oct 1989. “Ballot shortfall investigated in 1989 city election (10/5/89)” by Richard Mauer and Don Hunter (Anchorage Daily News).
- 9 Apr 2012. “Muni Attorney Issues Opinion On Validity Of Last Week’s Election” by Daysha Eaton (KSKA 91.1 Anchorage Public Radio.)
- 9 Apr 2012. “Anchorage officials continue weighing options in ‘problematic election’” by Eric Christopher Adams (Alaska Dispatch).
Anchorage voters urged to attend Anchorage Assembly meeting tonight
A story at The Mudflats this morning urges Anchorage voters to attend tonight’s Anchorage Assembly meeting beginning 5:00 PM. Bent Alaska agrees: come and stand up for the rights of voters not to be disenfranchised. The Assembly meets in its chambers on the first floor of the Loussac Library at 36th Avenue & Denali.
The post’s author, Linda Kellen Biegel, begins:
The Anchorage Assembly has the final say regarding the April 3rd election. The first of two Assembly Meetings dealing with the election starts at 5:00 pm today at the Loussac Library. Please attend and if you can, wear or carry something with a flag (there will be some stickers there) or simply red, white and blue to remind them how many Americans fought and died for our right to vote. If you cannot attend, please contact them all at firstname.lastname@example.org or individually here.
A later update states:
(*UPDATE* NOTE: Assembly Chair, Debbie Ossiander, is supposed to ask at the end of the meeting if anyone wants to speak. Plan on staying until the end.)
The post goes on to detail many of the numerous irregularities and questions about the process of last Tuesday’s election, including problems previously reported by The Mudflats and Bent Alaska, among others. Referring to Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler’s media advisory, Kellen Biegel writes:
[Wheeler] uses a situation from 1989 where the Municipal Clerk really had not ordered enough ballots, as opposed to the stunning array of missteps, incompetence and bizarre behavior exhibited during this election. Based on what we know so far:
– There are areas that had special district-specific issues to vote on (like Goldenview’s Proposition Eight). Some voters in those precincts ended up with ballots that did not have those issues on them. These were regular ballots, not questioned ballots.
– 50+ precincts ran out of ballots as early as late afternoon.
– Some folks waited to vote as much as 3 hours, some precincts sent folks to other places to vote. There is no way to know how many folks gave up and went home.
– Jim Minnery of Alaska Family Council and the No On 5 people sent out a false advertisement to his people on the day of the election, claiming they could REGISTER AND VOTE ON THE SAME DAY. His mea culpa was that he “received that information from someone at the Muni Clerk’s Office. However, as Mel Green of Bent Alaska discovered, Minnery sent out an email in February urging everyone that “March 4th is the last day to register for the April 3rd election.”
– There were veterans…even wounded warriors…who were unable to vote.
– Poll workers have stated that election officials were instructed to bring fewer ballots than normal to each individual precinct.
– Poll workers have stated that when the requests for more ballots from City Hall went unheard, workers from that precinct obtained ballots…from other precincts rather than City Hall.
– Poll workers and voters have stated that (from at least two precincts) some of the questioned ballots used for those precincts who ran out of ballots were “special needs ballots” (a proxy ballot) that requires a signed yellow receipt from the home-bound voter to be attached to the ballot for it to be considered legal. Voters report yellow receipts were all over the ground at those precincts who handed them out. It is a mystery how anyone counting the ballots will be able to tell, without the receipts, which is a special-needs ballot that was never verified and which was given to folks after the other ballots ran out. It makes one wonder if they will be tossed.
– ESS was contracted because the new electronic timekeeping program “couldn’t handle it.” As a result of the company’s demands for private information, many long-time pollworkers quit. This allowed ESS to hire their own people.
This is all the more interesting in light of this tidbit from Mel Green at Bent Alaska:
Since Friday, Bent Alaska has learned that Mona McAleese, Labor Services Manager for ESS Labor Services (per her Linked-In profile), is a long-time member of Chapel by the Sea, according to a testimony from McAleese from February 15, 2009 on Chapel by the Sea’s website.
McAleese’s affiliation with both ESS and Chapel by the Sea may be completely unrelated to the problems of this election; but the connection is nonetheless worth taking note of: Chapel by the Sea was of the top three contributors to Jim Minnery’s anti-Prop 5 “Protect Your Rights” group. Chapel by the Sea has also figured in election night accounts….
Read the story in full for additional irregularities from the April 3 election:
- 10 Apr 2012. “Tell The Assembly That Every Vote Counts!” by Linda Kellen Biegel (The Mudflats).
Other posts at The Mudfats documenting problems from this and even prior elections. Notably, a post by Shannyn Moore, originally published as a Compass opinion piece in last Sunday’s Anchorage Daily News:
In 2004, more votes were cast than the official statewide totals. In George W. Bush’s case, the district-by-district tally was 292,267, but his official total was 190,889, a difference of 101,378 votes.
In that year’s U.S. Senate race, Lisa Murkowski received 226,992 votes district by district, but her official total was 149,446, a difference of 77,546 votes.
There has never been an adequate explanation of the fact that also in 2004, 20 of 40 state House districts had more ballots cast than they had registered voters. Turnout in 16 of those districts was more than 200 percent.
We’re still using the same Diebold AccuVote machines that California decertified for a pattern of glaring anomalies.
Even beyond the numerous election irregularities unique to last Tuesday’s election, Moore’s facts point at ongoing problems with Alaska elections at least since 2004 that may be the result of faulty and inaccurate voting machines — which both state and municipal election authorities continue to ignore. It may not only be Anchorage’s April 3 election which demands investigation.
See all the recent Mudflats stories since the April 3 election:
- 4 Apr 2012. “Election 2012 Gone Wild: The Saga at Precinct 830″ by Linda Kellen Biegel (The Mudflats).
- 5 Apr 2012. “Situation Normal in Alaska – Complete Election Disaster” by Jeanne Devon writing as AKMuckraker (The Mudflats).
- 7 Apr 2012. “Ballot woes infringe on our sacred right” by Shannyn Moore (Compass opinion piece, Anchorage Daily News). Also posted at The Mudflats as “The Price of Not Re-Doing Municipal Election is Too High” (9 Apr 2012).
Bent Alaska livetweets tonight
Bent Alaska will be livetweeting from tonight’s Anchorage Assembly meeting @bentalaska, and will have a summary of the evening’s events tomorrow. For the benefit of Bent Alaska’s Facebook friends, our tweets should also show up on our (friends-only) Facebook wall."Protect Your Rights" (anti-Prop 5 group, ACLU of Alaska, Anchorage Assembly, Anchorage municipal election 2012, Chapel by the Sea (Anchorage), Dennis A. Wheeler, Jeff Mittman, Jim Minnery, One Anchorage, Proposition 5 Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative (2011-2012)