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.