The Municipal Elections Office issued a press release on Wednesday trying to explain why it took so long for the city to release election results.
After announcing 10,438 ballot results at 8:45 pm on Election Night, the Anchorage Municipality took about 20 hours to release the next tranche of results, which brought the total count to 41,826. The division believes it has about 15,000 ballots left to count.
“After continuing to investigate and review the low number – 10,606 – of votes cast on Election Day, we discovered one additional issue that slowed down our processing in addition to the late arrival of many ballots envelopes as well as the typical issues on Election Day,” the Clerk of Anchorage wrote.
One issue involved corrections on ballots and various stray marks on a large number of scanned ballots.
Although there were various combinations of errors on ballots, many ballots had the oval next to the selected candidate filled in, yet the ovals of all of the other candidates were also filled in and crossed off, the Muni wrote.
It’s unclear if the Election Office has ever seen such a phenomenon.
“It wasn’t until the MOA Elections Team tabulated the results on Election Night and completed our review tonight, that we understood that this much larger number of ballots were sequestered and awaiting adjudication, or human review, resulting in the low number of total votes cast on Election Night.
“Once we understood the problem and completed adjudication today [Wednesday, April 7], the results tonight look much more like what we would have expected on Election Night,” the city wrote.
The clerk says adjudication is an important feature of the “Vote at Home/Vote by Mail” system, because “when voters vote at home and make a mistake, we want voters to be able to easily correct the mistake without obtaining a replacement ballot. Now that we understand this issue, we don’t expect issue will slow us down in the rest of this election or in future elections.”
This generally is not a problem with conventional voting because if someone spoils a ballot, they may easily ask for a new one. Also, when they receive the ballot from the election worker, they are given brief instructions on how to fill out the ovals and how many pages are on the ballot. Pens are more uniform at voting centers, whereas at home, people may use a variety of markers that bleed through.
A total of over 57,900 envelopes have been processed through the mail sorter as of April 7; in addition, the city estimates there another 15,000 envelopes in the Election Center to process through the sorter.
When those ballots will be counted is unclear because of the same error-adjudication method. The election office works 8 am to 5 pm. and is publishing results once a day, at this point.