ELECTION OVERSIGHT IS UNHOLY MESS
100 ballots cast in Shungnak? Fifty ballots cast, and then another 50. Exactly half went Republican and half went Democrat-Independence-Libertarian (the ADL ballot).
But they all — all but two — went for Dean Westlake.
Although 131 of the 262 people in Shungnak are under the age of 18, according to the U.S. Census, (the school has 86 students) that leaves 137 possibly eligible voters. Yet 159 are registered to vote in this Northwest Arctic Borough subsistence village.
And for a day and a half after the election, we were led to believe by the posted data that 100 people voted. The reason for the unbelievable results? 50 people voted two ballots apiece.
Blank ballots in Newtok…This village known worldwide for eroding riverbanks has a reported 105 percent turnout, with 227 cards cast for the 215 registered voters. But only 94 ballots were tallied for an actual turnout of 47 percent. What happened to the other ballots?
Disappeared votes in District 38…In all, 366 cards were cast but were not actually tallied, according to results posted by the Division of Elections. These are the “disappeared” ballots. Were ballots substituted? No one seems to know.
Missing in Mekoryuk…147 people are registered, but it wasn’t until mid-Sunday when the 46 ballots that were cast were announced, five days after the election.
Anchorage anomalies…In Anchorage, Republicans in at least two districts were told they could not vote the Democratic ballot without it being a questioned ballot.
Barrow ballot access…Republicans wanting to vote the Democratic ballot were forced to fill out additional paperwork and vote a questioned ballot.
In District 38, there are 171 questioned ballots, which is an extraordinarily high number. In District 40, there are 99 questioned ballots. These all are to be counted in Nome today.
“We’re still getting to the bottom of it,” Josie Bahnke told KTOO. “We’re considering this to be a huge training issue for us going into the general, and one we will address meaningfully and promptly.”
BREAKING DOWN THE SHUNGNAK VOTING MESS
Here’s how it went down on Election Day in Shungnak: If you came to vote, the city clerk pushed two ballots into your hand.
The extra 50 votes that were cast equal six percent of either Dean Westlake or Ben Nageak votes. In the end, the extra 50 would be enough to impact the race in which Westlake leads by just five votes.Shungnak has 51 registered Democrats and 19 registered Republicans; 79 of the registered voters are U’s and N’s.
That means 98 people in Shungnak could have asked for the Republican ballot, while all 159 registered voters could have asked for the Democrat ballot.
Evelyn Woods is the city clerk in the village. She told the Alaska Dispatch News that she handed two ballots to every voter, not realizing her mistake until the poll closed at 8 p.m. And then, inexplicably, she found herself unable to report her error. We don’t now how long it took her to do so, we just know that the tally from that precinct were not reported until all the other District 40 results were announced.
Compared to all the other precincts in the district, the 96 percent in Shungnak who voted for Westlake represents by far the largest margin for him of any village that went either for Westlake or for Nageak.
Newtok was evidently using touch screen voting for the first time.
Newtok is a village of 354 individuals, 215 of whom are registered to vote. Why the data showed that 227 of them voted, for a 105 percent turnout, requires an explanation.
DIVISION OF SKETCHY ELECTIONS
Unanswered questions include:
- Why did Shungnak not report results until 20 hours after the District results were known?
- Was the extraordinary delay because the Division of Elections was trying to decide how to report the numbers?
- Why didn’t the Division of Elections report to the public that there had been voting irregularity?