ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Anchorage Assembly has voted against hiring an independent special counsel to look into what went wrong in last week's municipal election.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska wanted a survey of registered voters to find out how many were turned away or disenfranchised by widespread ballot shortages. It requested the special counsel.
The group released sworn statements from voters and poll workers about ballot shortages and confusion at the polls. Complaints included precincts asking voters to cast a questioned ballot even though they were registered to vote at the precinct and the use of photo-copied ballots, the group said.
Assemblymember Elvi Gray-Jackson, who proposed the counsel, said no municipal attorney could be expected to look at the election problems. Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler, who is evaluating the election, works for the mayor. Wheeler does not work for the Assembly, which is responsible for election oversight.
"We need to have legal assessment on this issue that is fair," Gray-Jackson said.
Some Assembly members who voted against the measure said they liked the idea but wanted more information first, The Anchorage Daily News ( ) reported.
The Assembly is planning a work session Friday on the election and would hear from the city clerk and the six-member Election Commission, according to Assembly chairwoman Debbie Ossiander. The city clerk's office runs the elections and has said 53 of 121 precincts ran short on ballots, at least temporarily, based on a preliminary review.
Some voters drove from polling place to polling place looking for a way to choose a mayor and pick sides in a fractious gay rights debate.
Assembly member Harriet Drummond said during a break that the election irregularities may justify a redo.
"That's my gut feeling," said Drummond, who chairs the Assembly elections and ethics committee.
Among the ACLU-solicited sworn statements was one from Collin Smith, a polling place chairman. By 6:30 p.m. on election day, he was out of ballots, he said. The polling station began the day with too few ballots, he said, and called three times for more. When none arrived, he temporarily closed the ballot box, he said, adding he was told to send voters to another precinct.
"Overall, voters were very upset and yelled at me for not having adequate ballots," Smith wrote.
City Clerk Barbara Gruenstein said the city printed enough ballots for a 70 percent voter turnout. That should have been enough for more than 140,000 ballots, but a high turnout and an unusually large number of people voting on questioned ballots caught election officials by surprise.
Gruenstein said many ballots were stored at City Hall. "We never ran out of ballots; they were just in the wrong spot," she said.
About 54,000 ballots cast in the Proposition 5 gay rights initiative and the mayoral race were tallied Tuesday.
According to unofficial results, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan received 59 percent of the vote to defeat challenger Paul Honeman, an assemblyman and former police officer.
Voters turned down Proposition 5 — which sought to add legal protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people — by a margin of 58 to 42 percent, or 9,000 votes.
With potentially 13,000 more ballots to be counted, the ACLU said it's too early to dismiss the ballot shortages as having no impact.
"If it were to turn out that every single ballot question had a 30,000-vote differential, I think at that point it would be appropriate to say, 'We can certify this election,'" ACLU executive director Jeff Mittman said.
Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.comTags: