Election Commissioner and Poll Worker Clash at Assembly Meeting – “That’s a lie!”
Tensions ran high at last night’s Assembly meeting, held to certify the badly botched Municipal election of April 3, 2012. The most intense moment came when Gwen Mathew, the Anchorage Election Commissioner, testified to the Assembly about the issue of broken security seals on the Diebold AccuVote machines on the day of the election. Mathew stated that she had received no report “at all, anywhere, of a seal being broken.”
Wendy Isbell, a poll worker who had reported a broken seal multiple times in testimony, in writing, and by interview, to the Assembly, her precinct chair, and the Election Commission itself, happened to be present in the room last night and called the Commissioner a liar during the meeting. The Chair, who had originally thanked Isbell for her service during her first testimony to the Assembly, called security to escort her out of the building. Since last night’s meeting, Isbell was told by Assembly member Jennifer Johnston that the Election Commissioner who interviewed her backed up her story.
This is Isbell’s testimony about broken seals at the Assembly meeting on April 17, 2012.
Hi, my name is Wendy Isbell. I worked at the polls. I worked at Romig Junior High. I went to the training that Jacqueline Duke did, where she said if the seals were broken on the AccuVote machines, it’s OK. I have seen this, not only on this occasion, but at a different election I worked with that seal, at the end of the evening when you open up the AccuVote machine to… from the paper, to finish the night out… they’ve been broken before. They’re cut – completely cut. It’s not like these zip ties – these red zip ties – come off. And this is also not the fist time I’ve been told, “Just slip it back on. If it falls off, just slip it back on.” You know, I didn’t really think much of it until this election, and I’m quite concerned. I worked the polls because everyone who works my district is very elderly, and it’s my turn to step up and become that person who works at the polls. And I don’t ever want to have the job I did questioned, because I really firmly believe it is my civic duty to do that.
After her testimony, Isbell was called back to the podium by Chair Ernie Hall to answer questions.
First, let me thank you for your service at the polling station. It was greatly appreciated. I have questions from Mr. Honeman and Mr. Flynn.
Assembly member Paul Honeman:
Thank you for committing your time to a very important process in our community. And my question is did you prepare any comments to give to the precinct chair or to the Clerk’s office, or to the Election Commission? Was there any report?
I did. I wrote them. They give you a piece of paper to do that, and so I wrote those and turned it in with the rest of the box they gave to the chairperson. Now, what happens to those, I don’t know. And it’s optional to put your name on those.
Did you put your name on it?
I believe I did.
Her spoken testimony before the Assembly reveals that she first reported the problem on election night, when she wrote the incident down on a piece of paper, and put it in a box with others that went to the precinct chair of the polling place where she worked.
Four days later, Isbell showed up again at the special “public” meeting of the Anchorage Election Commission, which was arranged so that voters and poll workers sat in private, one-on-one meetings with Election Commissioners, who heard their testimony. Isbell was interviewed by Election Commissioner Alyce Hanley, and was not given a copy of her testimony. In an email exchange between Isbell and Assembly member Jennifer Johnston, Johnston said that she had talked to Hanley, who remembered Isbell and confirmed her testimony.
Isbell was interviewed the day of the meeting by Casey Grove of the Anchorage Daily News about her testimony.
Among those who did show up was Wendy Isbell, an election worker who also testified at Tuesday’s Assembly meeting. Isbell says she saw voting machines with broken seals, plastic pieces designed to prevent someone from tampering with a memory card that counts votes.
“I don’t see how they broke,” Isbell said. “They’re impossible to break. They were evenly cut.”
When another worker asked about the broken seals, Isbell says Deputy Municipal Clerk Jacqueline Duke told the worker, “If they’re broken, don’t worry about it.”
The article went on to relay Duke’s comments on the broken seals.
Any evidence of fraud could easily be rooted out with a recount, Duke said. She also said Isbell’s retelling of her instruction about the broken voting machine seals was incomplete.
“What I said was, ‘If you open up on election morning, and you see it’s clearly broken from transport, don’t worry, I have extras,” Duke said.
The plastic is “flimsy,” she said, and can break easily. That’s not evidence of vote fraud, she said.
“I think perhaps people are unhappy with the (election) results, and they’ll find anything they can,” Duke said.
After the Deputy Clerk’s accusation that Isbell was simply complaining because she was unhappy with the result of the election, Isbell received criticism. Distressed, she returned to the Assembly to testify yet again about the seals being broken.
This is Isbell’s testimony at the Assembly meeting of 4/24/12:
I’m here again to address the broken seals on the AccuVote machines. I did the right thing – my civic duty – by volunteering to be an election worker. And I did the right thing by coming forward with evidence of the broken plastic seals. And I did the right thing by testifying in front of the Assembly last week. And I did the right thing by coming in and having my testimony written down on Saturday. And I took an oath at election training, and another oath on election day. And now my honesty and integrity are being questioned publicly by Jacqueline Duke. As a result of this, it’s been suggested online that I’m a shill, pushing forward a partisan agenda, or worse, tampering with the AccuVote machines.
I assure you, I’m nothing more than a stay at home mom. I’m a veteran. I served my country. And I volunteer. I just want to make my community a better place for my children, and my fellow Alaskans.
Those plastic seals placed on those AccuVote machines are our only guarantee that there’s been no tampering with those cards. In our training manuals (holds up a manual) this one here, it states: “Make sure the small silver bar covering the memory card on the front of the AccuVote unit is sealed, and the seal is not broken.” That’s a quote right out of this book, on page 7. It doesn’t say what to do if you find a broken seal.
At training, when asked, Jacqueline Duke’s instructions about the broken seals seemed to show little regard for the integrity of the AccuVote machines. We rely on the seals so that we don’t have to rely on the word of election officials such as Jacqueline Duke. Those seals are the only guarantee we have that the election workers from the absolute top, to the poll workers at the bottom, don’t tamper with those cards. To certify the election without resolving the issue of those seals leaves the public with no confidence in the integrity of this election. The broken seals are evidence that cannot be ignored. Thank you.
Isbell confirms in this testimony to the Assembly on April 24, her participation in the Saturday session of private testimony with an Election Commissioner who had taken down her statement. She again mentioned the broken seals and her concern about the integrity of the AccuVote system.
- Isbell submitted her comments about the broken seal on Election night in writing to the precinct Chair, April 3, 2012
- She submitted public testimony to the Assembly at the meeting of April 17, 2012 (above)
- She submitted testimony to the Election Commission at the meeting of April 21, 2012
- She submitted public testimony to the Assembly at the meeting of April 24, 2012 (above)
The story of her testimony to the Election Commission, which Mathew chairs, was even reported in the Anchorage Daily News.
~Isbell testifying about broken seals to an Election Commissioner (photo by Mel Green, Bent Alaska)
Isbell also happened to be present at the special meeting of the Assembly last night on Thursday, May 3, where the body ultimately voted to certify the election. Gwen Mathew was asked to be present and to answer questions from the Assembly. Assembly member Debbie Ossiander asked Mathew about the Diebold AccuVote machines. This is part of the response from Mathew, when asked about the AccuVote machines.
Mathew: By the way, we’ve had no report at all, anywhere, of a seal being broken. That was not the concern, at least at the time of the Chairman’s report or the interviews that we held.
Ossiander: I was under the impression that one seal was broken. You found no seals broken?
Mathew: In our interviews… in the emails that came in…
Isbell: That’s a lie. That’s a lie! I reported it. I reported it to her. At the Loussac Library, I reported a broken seal. Obviously you threw that away. It’s a lie, a lie!
Mathew: That was hearsay. That was hearsay. That was not a personal…
Isbell: It’s not hearsay! I was there! I saw it. It’s a lie. I reported it as I was supposed to report it, and they didn’t give it to you, or you didn’t write it down.
Assembly Chair Ernie Hall: Security!
Isbell: (on her way out) Thanks. I’m such a threat…
Hall: Are you done Miss Ossiander?
Ossiander: I know however this evening goes, there will be more discussion about these machines. I’m actually eager to look into that.
The Mudflats’ Linda Kellen Biegel, and Bent Alaska’s Mel Green talked to Mathew after the meeting. Biegel asked Mathew about her use of the term “hearsay.”
“She was there and saw it herself. How can that possibly be hearsay? What is your definition of hearsay? She told the commissioner who filled out the paperwork, and you’re saying that you had no report of it?” she asked.
Biegel reports that Mathew “shrugged it off and said she didn’t see it.” Biegel then said, “But I thought you said you’ did but it but it was hearsay! Which is it?”
Green told Mathew she was ashamed of her, and that she had lied.
This confrontation was apparently enough that Mathew was then escorted through the parking lot and to her car by two security guards – the same security guards that had been called twice that night by Ernie Hall to silence and remove a voter, and an election worker from the meeting.
Mr. Hall, who left the building unescorted, was also approached by unhappy voters as he headed to his car.