A veteran of Alaska elections, Gail Fenumiai, will return as the director of the Division of Elections starting in January. The announcement was made by the office of Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer today.
Fenumiai was the division director for seven years and had 10 years of additional experience working at the division. She was in charge during the controversial write-in campaign for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, when ballots had to be judged one by one as to the voters’ intent regarding the spelling of Murkowski and the filling in of the oval.
But former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott said he wanted to “move in some new directions with the Division of Elections and it was felt that it was time for different leadership,” according to his former chief of staff.
The leader Mallott chose was Josie Bahnke, the city manager of Nome. ““I think it’s just that the lieutenant governor would like to move forward and reach his goal of having the best elections division in the country,” Claire Richardson said at the time.
Fenumiai returns at a time when some have had their faith in the elections division shaken.
In 2016, voting irregularities in several rural communities were enough to bring a court challenge over the District 40 results. Voters in some villages in that district were allowed to vote both a Republican ballot and a Democrat-other ballot.
The court ruled to allow the results in that district to stand, chalking up the illegal voting to poor training in the Division of Elections.
“Gail has the skills, wisdom, experience and judgement to restore Alaskan’s faith and trust in our elections process and that is exactly what we pledge to do.” said Lt. Gov. Meyer.
Fenumiai most recently worked as a regional coordinator at Catholic Community Service in Juneau, she begins working at the Division of Elections on Jan. 2, 2019. Region 1 Elections Supervisor Lauri Wilson will serve as Interim Director.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.