Anchorage election update, 11 April 2012: Anchorage Assembly meeting
by Mel Green
On Tuesday, April 10, the ACLU of Alaska released three affidavits of voters and election workers; the Anchorage Assembly voted 7 to 4 against appointing an independent special counsel for the time being; and the Assembly got an earful about election problems.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Lennie Moren (left) & Jane A. Darden protesting disenfranchisement at the Anchorage Assembly, 10 Apr 2012."][/caption]
I was convinced during the day on April 10 that instead of going to my favorite Tuesday evening activity of writing at a cafe with some friends, that it was imperative for anyone who could to attend tonight’s meeting of the Anchorage Assembly to advocate for the need for an independent investigation of Anchorage’s April 3 municipal election. Assembly meetings begin at 5:00 — at the same time that my workday ends; but I was able to get off a few minutes early in order to catch a bus to the Loussac Library. Nonetheless, I was a few minutes late to the meeting.
Much of the account below are tweets over the course of the evening from @bentalaska. For most tweets I used the hashtag #prop5, for Proposition 5, the Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative, which based on election returns from votes tallied so far is believed to have been defeated in the election; though other questions on the ballot may of course also have been affected by the irregularities of the April 3 election. I also used the hashtag #fb, which is used by the Facebook app Selective Tweets to update Bent Alaska’s Facebook statuses. I have removed the hashtags here in order to reduce clutter.
The ACLU of Alaska provides affidavits about election problems
I learned soon after I arrived that the ACLU of Alaska had sent a second letter to the Anchorage Assembly, which included copies of three affidavits from among the over 150 sworn affidavits it received from voters and election workers about election problems on April 3. Bent Alaska has now obtained copies:
- 10 Apr 2012.“Re: Presentation of Supporting Affidavits; Prior Request for Appointment of Special Counsel,” letter from Jeffrey Mittman, American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, to Debbie Ossiander, Chair, Anchorage Municipal Assembly.
- Affidavits of Rhonda Matthews, Collin Smith, and Angela Blue
KTUU Channel 2 News gave details (also described in an Alaska Dispatch story) from the affidavit of Collin Smith. Smith, the poll chairman at the East Anchorage United Methodist Church, said his precinct’s ballot box was shut down for half an hour on election day because it had no ballots:
“We started out with 450 ballots, which was significantly fewer than we have had in the past,” Smith said. “We started calling our troubleshooter ‘Karen’ about 5:30 p.m. when it was apparent that we would be running out of ballots; she told us to call back later. We called again when we were down to 50 remaining ballots, and were told yet again to call back later.”
In the affidavit, Smith says even exhausting the polling place’s supply of ballots didn’t get an immediate response from election officials.
“Finally we called shortly before 6:30 p.m., when we were out of ballots,” Smith said. “We were directed to send voters to UAA until we received more ballots. At 7:15 p.m., having received no additional ballots, we shut down the ballot box inside the polling place, although we did not close the polling place per se. We finally received additional ballots at 7:45 p.m.”
(Election workers Pam Tesche and Susan Bretz later testified to problems at their precints during the public comment period at the tail end of the Assembly meeting. See below.)
The Anchorage public radio station KSKA FM 91.1 reported details of Rhonda Matthews’ affidavit:
Rhonda Matthews is one of the people who called the ACLU to report that she’d been disenfranchised. Matthews first went to her voting precinct at Klatt Elementary School just after 7 o’clock on April 3. That’s where she says she was turned away by an election worker in the parking lot who told her they’d run out of ballots and directed her to vote at the Alaska Club on O’Malley.
“When I arrived I noticed the parking lot was very crowded. And that some people were exiting the building that appeared to be quite frustrated. I went in side and when I got to the voting table I told the poll employee that I was from Klatt Elementary and had been sent to this location. I was told that I couldn’t vote there but didn’t specify why. They told me that I could vote at the airport,” Matthews said.
Matthews explains in her affidavit that by the time she was directed to the airport it was 7:45, and with polling places closing at 8:00pm, there wasn’t enough time … so she gave up and went home.
Apologies from the Anchorage Assembly
The Anchorage Assembly meeting began (I learned after I arrived) with a statement of apology and concerns from Assembly Chair Debbie Ossiander. The blog Alaska Commons has already provided a transcript of parts of her statement, from which we excerpt the following:
The certification vote and the election commission report are currently scheduled for our next meeting on the 17th, but, again, I want to emphasize I do not believe we should certify the election until we are satisfied that we understand what happened this year and what its impact was….
See the complete Alaska Commons’ post for an intelligent, hard-hitting analysis of the night’s events.
John Aronno, Alaska Commons editor, reports that the story was the product of “Alaska Commons staff (this was a team effort with me zonked out on flu and cold medication)” — congratulations, Alaska Commons team, on a well-thought out post, and hope you feel better soon, John. Bent Alaska will also be reposting the Alaska Commons story in full later today.
I arrived at the meeting a few minutes late because I first had to take a bus from my job. Here are my tweets from the time I made the announcement I’d be arriving, through the early stages of the meeting:
- Bent Alaska will livetweet from tonight’s Anchorage Assembly meeting. We encourage you to attend. Today’s update: http://t.co/1yIIC1eQ #
- RT @yksin: I will be livetweeting tonight’s Anchorage Assembly meeting @bentalaska re: election issues. #
- On my way to Loussac Library for Anchorage Assembly meeting. Will only be tweeting from this ID on election-related stuff. #
- (Well maybe I’ll tweet other LGBTQ related stuff too we’ll have to see.) #
- In assembly chambers, catching up. @alaskacommons also here tweetin. Where are you, John? (Here I am in my trademark orange.) #
- I am told Chair Ossiander began by making big apology on behalf of Assembly for the hash of an election last week. #
- RT @alaskacommons: Why did Assembly Chair Ossiander leave out Jim Minnery’s alleged election tampering out of concerns ENTIRELY? #
- RT @alaskacommons: Dick Traini calling out Dennis Wheeler’s ability to serve as municipal attorney. #
- @alaskacommons no wonder I can’t see you! Feel better soon. in reply to alaskacommons #
- @alaskacommons actually watching via laptop, home sick w/ cold. Please send him your well wishes. He recorded Ossiander speech. #
- I’m told Ossiander also said there will be Assembly work session re election Friday noon. These are open to public. #
- Ethics committee member Harriet Drummond was speAking as I arrived. V angry abt false econizing & other election probs #
- RT @OneAnchorage: Mark you calendars for Saturday at 1PM – 3PM at 4 A’s where we’re having a Town Hall… http://t.co/kOrSvyoC #
Assembly resolution to authorize independent special counsel fails 7-4
Assembly members Elvi Gray-Jackson and Harriet Drummond introduced a resolution to authorize an independent special counsel to investigate all the election problems.
- 10 Apr 2012. Resolution No. AR 2012-106, a resolution authorizing the procurement of independent Special Counsel to the Assembly (Anchorage Municipal Code 7.20.060K), Assemblymembers Elvi Gray-Jackson and Harriet Drummond. (Laid on the Table)
As reported by Alaska Commons:
Many expressed reservations about jumping to this action – members Jennifer Johnston, Ernie Hall, Dick Traini, and Patrick Flynn voiced the opinion that such a move should wait until Friday’s scheduled work session, which would be the body’s first chance to hear from the election commission. This would be the prevailing sentiment, as the vote failed, 4-7.
Votes in favor of the resolution came from Assembly members Paul Honeman, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Patrick Flynn, and Harriet Drummond; “no” votes were from Assembly Chair Debbie Ossiander and members Bill Starr, Ernie Hall, Dick Traini, Adam Trombley, Jennifer Johnston, and Chris Birch (who voted by phone).
However, there is a strong possibility that some “no” voters might reconsider after a scheduled Assembly work meeting on the election this coming Friday, April 13, at noon in the Mayor’s Conference Room at City Hall. During a recess after the vote, midtown Assembly member Dick Traini specifically told me that he was completely willing to take another look at a proposal for an independent special counsel after that work session took place, and after the Election Commission, which is scheduled to hold a canvass also on Friday, is further along with its work.
Jeanne Devon of The Mudflats liveblogged this portion of the meeting; see her account here. She will have further information from the meeting later today.
Bent Alaska’s tweets during this portion of the evening:
- Elvi Gray-Jackson says ACLU sent another election. She is bringing resolution to hire independent investigator into election. #
- Jennifer Johnston: still not sure what she will cite. Prefers to wait until Friday work session. #
- Correction: until AFTER Friday work session. #
- Ernie Hall: concurs. So they can also have complete info from Election Commission. #
- Ernie Hall: “I was elected by my constituents – don’t want to shirk responsibilities by giving to 3rd party.” #
- Jeff Mittman: ACLU rec’d 139 complaints (phone calls) + 14 emails re people unable to vote. Wheeled cited 1989 case had only 2z #
- Dick Traini: supports Elvi’s resolution but not tonight not until Election Commission gives its info … Friday. #
- Patrick Flynn: concurs. #
- Mittman: Election Commission task is counting ballots submitted. They cannot determine how many didn’t vote b/c disenfranchised. #
- Drummond: Dealing w/ disenfranchisement is Assembly duty. Needs to be done sooner than later. #
- Resolution fails 4 to 5. Yes: Gray-Jackson, Drummond, Honeman, Flynn. #
[Note: the actual vote was 4 yeas 7 nays. I corrected the vote count in a later tweet.]
- Traini voted no. But this can be reconsidered later. Let the no votes know how you feel. #
Assembly turns to other business
After the vote on the resolution, the Assembly turned to other business. The April 3 election did not come up again until the end of the evening, when public comments were taken. But Bent Alaska continued to tweet:
- IMO: There are some Assembly members who wd clearly like to ignore probs & sweep them under rug. Don’t let them. #
- IMO: Ossiander in particular seems to be oblivious to muni atty Wheeler’s conflict of interest. #
- (Wheeler works at pleasure of Mayor Dan Sullivan who was a party in last week’s highly screwed up & possibly corrupted election.) #
- Drummond: talking about the new IT system & how it “couldn’t handle” temp election workers payroll so was contracted out. #
- Ossiander as chair sounds continually irritated often to the point of discourtesy. #
- At Anchorage Assembly meeting. @ Anchorage Assembly Chambers http://t.co/HERkkuj3 #
- Loussac Library, where Anchorage Assembly chambers are located. @ Z. J. Loussac Public Library http://t.co/KWbszOjD #
- Don’t know whether there will be anything more on election tonight until open public testimony at end of Assembly meeting. #
- Assembly in recess. Estimated it will be a short mtg & public comment will be abt 8:30. You do not need to sign up for public comment. #
- RT @CJBurgandy: everytime we applaude Drummond and Grey-Jackson the sour look on Ossiander’s face makes me clap louder. #
- IMO: if election had been done completely honestly #prop5 may still have lost. But we will never know. #
- IMO: regardless of #prop5 Anchorage & AK elections have pattern of irregularities pointing at corruption of public process. #
- Demand a thorough & independent investigation. Do not let Sullivan Wheeler Ossiander etc sweep it under the rug. #
- Jeff Mittman of ACLU of Alaska (left) speaks with Assembly member Dick Traini @ Anchorage Assembly Chambers http://t.co/hWA2eee5 #
- RT @yayooski: @bentalaska please post what time public testimony starts… // Yep. Right now est. public comment will be ~8:30 #
- I’m now across hall @ Wilda Marston – Psych Right discussion on mental health in AK. But I will go back to Assembly soon. #
- During Assemvly recess I spoke with Dick Traini, who as midtown Assemby member I am a direct constituent of. #
- Traini voted no on independent investigator NOW b/c he wants Election Commission to finish their work first. #
- But Traini prob willing to say YES to independent investigator after Election Commission work. #
- Based on Assembly comments earlier, I think Jennifer Johnston & Ernie Hall may also be willing to vote YES later. #
- Also during recess stepped up by Elvi Gray-Jackson being interviewed by Lisa Demer of Anchorage Daily News — excellent reporter. #
- RT @kska: ACLU Presents Disenfranchised Voter Affidavits To Anchorage Assembly http://t.co/4UZRXp5w #
- Lisa Demer also asked me some questions. I told her what deputy muni clerk Jaqueline Duke told me abt out-of-muni “voters”… #
- … i.e. people registered to vote but not to vote in Anchorage, who cast questioned ballots. See yesterday’s Bent Alaska story #
- Elvi Gray-Jackson told Lisa Demer point blank that she believes Minnery should be prosecuted. #
- Protesting disenfranchisement at the Anchorage Assembly. http://t.co/CGjkgxtG #
- I am back in the Assembly Chambers. #
- Municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler (left) and Jeff Mitmann of ACLU of Alaska s @ Anchorage Assembly Chambers http://t.co/Nxn8rrfK #
- Anchorage Assembly in 10 minute recess. My expert Tim Pearson now puts public comment now at about 8:45 PM. #
- @yayooski they already did that voted no 5-4. They may vote differently next week. But there will be public comments ~8:45. in reply to yayooski #
[Note: another misreport of the vote count. I corrected it later.]
- Assembly back in session. #
- Okay now Tim thinks public comment (some of which will be definitely about the election & its numerous irregularities) @ ~9:00 PM. #
- Oops I’ve twice now reported vote against independent investigator in Anchorage Assembly as 4 yes 5 no. It was really 4 yes 7 no. #
- RT @yayooski:
@bentalaska what was their rationale? Was it the $ or the point spread of the questioned ballots? // see next tweet #
- @yayooski several Assembly members said they wanted to wait until Friday work session &!for Election Commission to finish its work. #
- RT @yayooski: what other recourse do we have for new election? Does this mean the election will now be certified? // see next tweet #
- @yayooski Assembly will decide next week whether to certify election. That is also chance for them to reconsider independent special counsel #
- RT @BrettaApplebaum:
@bentalaska TY for attending/reporting // You’re welcome! #
- We’re now listening to discussion of a liquor license applicant who wants to ship booze to the Bush. Susan Niman testified against. #
Public comments from Anchorage election workers and voters
Public comments, usually the last item on the agenda, are an opportunity for any member of the public to speak to the Assembly for 3 minutes on any topic of concern.
This night I counted a total of 19 speakers — 18 of whom (including me) came before the Assembly to discuss the election. Comments went on for over an hour, and the last three speakers (including me) were only able to speak because the Assembly agreed to extend the meeting to hear them. (Without such an extension, the Assembly is obligated to adjourn its meetings by 11:00 PM.)
Two speakers — Pam Tesche and Susan Bretz — were election workers who gave detailed accounts of the problems experienced at their precincts — details which do not at all cast a good light on the conduct of the election. Alex DeMarban of the Alaska Dispatch gave an account of Susan Bretz’s testimony:
Election worker Susan Bretz told the Assembly that the number of regular ballots given to the Nunaka Valley Elementary School was far smaller than in past elections.
It was clear early on the polling place would run out. But efforts to get more ballots from the precinct’s “troubleshooter” did little to help, and the site ran out of ballots for almost two hours starting at 6 p.m. Election workers were told to send voters to the University of Alaska Anchorage or Ted Stevens International Airport, two designated in-person absentee polling places where those unable to cast ballots in their home districts could still vote.
“It turned into a hellacious evening. It was not fun. We had a lot of angry people,” Bretz said.
Alaska Commons editor John Aronno assures me that his team will have transcripts of Tesche’s and Bretz’s testimony probably by tonight.
Meanwhile, here are Bent Alaska’s tweets during this portion of the evening:
- Public comments now happening. Tim Pearson reading a letter he already sent to Assembly. People lining up. #
- People line up for public comment as Tim Pearson speaks. @ Anchorage Assembly Chambers http://instagr.am/p/JRLa9xLdLk/ #
- People who stayed to this late hour to speak are VERY angry about election. #
- 3rd person: people complain about “my vote doesn’t count” & about low voter turnout. With an election like this one, no wonder. #
- She accuses the Assembly: “and you don’t even care.” #
- 4th person not talking about election — a bunch of stuff about PDFs. #
5th person: Jane Darden on voices that weren’t heard because of voter disenfranchising. Can’t trust our elections. #
- Ossiander tells her: “every member of this body is very concerned.” Invites her to Assembly Friday work session. #
- 6th person: Jessica Bush hearing jokes from family Outside about the badly done election. #
- Not comfortable withbWheeler’s conflict of interest. #
- @LandrasGembar he was talking about how Assembly gets info to public. Assembly v. Interested in what he had to say. in reply to LandrasGembar #
- 7th: Grant Hunter: “the thing speaks for itself” – thinks AK DOC &’feds should call grand juries & prosecute people at fault. #
- 8th, who is disabled: no reason in 20th century we should have to vote on paper. #
- 9th Greg Schmitz: doesn’t thing way to go is “for you to investigate it yourself” — need impartial investigation. #
- Using voting Diebolt AccuVote machine which were decertified by CA. Ossiander asks for info on that. #
- 10th: 13% of entire electorate decides election (the 1/2 plus 1 of actual voters in election): need more@voter participation #
- 11th: Pam Tesche: much experienced in elections, worked this election @ Fairview Rec. delineating probs at there this election. #
- Fairview got only 200 ballots this election usually have 300 to 400 voters at Fairview #
- She is being questioned by Ossiander. Election workers were told incorrect procedures to tell voters…. #
- @alaskacommons: we will need a transcript of Pam Tesche’s testimony. #
- And my question is: who actually trained &!instructed election workers. #
- 12th: Amber Sawyer: heartbroken to find out they had voted against independent investigator so far. #
- Many UAA students she registered to vote were not able to vote b/c of election problems. #
- 13th: Linda Kellen Biegel on probs at Hanshew. Special needs ballots. See Mudflats post about this. #
- Who was responsible to hire ESS? #
- 14th: Kelly Walters (sp?): wants independent arms length investigator. we don’t know how many didn’t get to vote #
- Diebolt problems & election integrity. #
- 15th: Dan Sullivan & “integrity”: what about integrity of election? #
- 16th: Susan Bretz election worker. Detailing problems at her precinct, too few ballots @alaskacommons another transcript if you can! #
- 17th: me. I talked about a friend of a friend’s disenfranchisement & about Jim Minnery’s Big Lie. #
- 18th: Susan Niman: says an interim mayor shd be appointed & redo election in November. #
- 19th: “Technically the election came out right” but “morally and legally we need a redo.” #
- Adjourned. #
References (media accounts of the night)
- 10 Apr 2012. “Anchorage Assembly Rejects Election Investigation by Special Counsel” by Jason Lamb, Tim Akimoff and Chris Klint (KTUU Channel 2 News) [includes video].
- 10 Apr 2012. “ACLU Presents Disenfranchised Voter Affidavits To Anchorage Assembly” by Daysha Eaton (KSKA 91.1 FM Anchorage Public Radio).
- 10 Apr 2012. “Assembly votes against independent review of Anchorage election” by Alex DeMarban (Alaska Dispatch).
- 10 Apr 2012. “Live Blogging the Anchorage Assembly Meeting – The Vote” by Jeanne Devon (The Mudflats).
- 10 Apr 2012. “Assembly gets earful of election complaints: ACLU produces statements describing chaos at polls and frustration with ballot shortage” by Kyle Hopkins and Lisa Demer (Anchorage Daily News).
- 10 Apr 2012. “Tales from the precincts: Anchorage voting nightmares” by Eric Christopher Adams and Alex DeMarban (Alaska Dispatch).
- 11 Apr 2012. “Anchorage Election Woes Continue; the Ball is Now in the Assembly’s Court” (Alaska Commons).
- 11 Apr 2012. “Assembly puts off action on messy Anchorage election” by Alex DeMarban (Alaska Dispatch).