Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Voting irregularities: is Alaska Chicago North? Accusations that anti-gay churches and political groups outside Anchorage bum-rushed precincts

Shannyn Moore published the following in Mudflats and as a Compass opinion piece in last Sunday’s Anchorage Daily News:
The election on Tuesday was nothing short of outrageous. At press time, we understand that more than half the reviewed precincts didn't have enough ballots for voters. People were unable to vote even after, in some cases, making stops at three and four polling places. The law requires the city to print enough ballots for 70 percent of registered voters. The actual turnout this week was in the vicinity of 27 percent. So where were tens of thousands of unused ballots?
     ...In 2004, more votes were cast than the official statewide totals. In George W. Bush’s case, the district-by-district tally was 292,267, but his official total was 190,889, a difference of 101,378 votes.
     In that year’s U.S. Senate race, Lisa Murkowski received 226,992 votes district by district, but her official total was 149,446, a difference of 77,546 votes.
     There has never been an adequate explanation of the fact that also in 2004, 20 of 40 state House districts had more ballots cast than they had registered voters. Turnout in 16 of those districts was more than 200 percent.
     We’re still using the same Diebold AccuVote machines that California decertified for a pattern of glaring anomalies.
Here's an account from Mudflats of the ballot mayhem: Election 2012 Gone Wild: The Saga at Precinct 830

Bent Alaska's Mel Green learned that the woman who ran the temp service overseeing election workers was a member of a church actively working to defeat Prop 5:
Mona McAleese, Labor Services Manager for ESS Labor Services (per her Linked-In profile), is a long-time member of Chapel by the Sea, according to a testimony from McAleese from February 15, 2009 on Chapel by the Sea’s website.
     McAleese’s affiliation with both ESS and Chapel by the Sea may be completely unrelated to the problems of this election; but the connection is nonetheless worth taking note of:  Chapel by the Sea was of the top three contributors to Jim Minnery’s anti-Prop 5 “Protect Your Rights” group.  Chapel by the Sea has also figured in election night accounts:
Linda Kellen Biegel, writing in The Mud Flats, – ESS was contracted because the new electronic timekeeping program “couldn’t handle it.” As a result of the company’s demands for private information, many long-time pollworkers quit. This allowed ESS to hire their own people.
  • There are reports of information radically different from historical election procedures being given to poll workers, then subsequently to voters:
  • My colleagues told me that around 5pm they were very low on ballots so called the Clerk’s troubleshooter for more. 45 minutes later the Troubleshooter showed up with more ballots, and with an armful of Questioned Ballot envelopes.
  • The Trouble shooter said that the Clerk’s office wanted those newly arrived ballots to ALL be voted as a QB, with the voter signing the QB Register, placing the ballot into the QB envelope, and dropping the evnelope into the QB box.
  • The poll workers were instructed to tell Registered Voters that they were not allowed to sign by their name in the Register, and that even though they were registered, they must vote their ballot as a Questioned Ballot.
  • So, all voters who entered between 6pm and 8pm were counted as QB;s only, whether or not they were on the Register. Most people were dismayed and complained; one can assume they were on the Register.
  • There are reports of voters never receiving their absentee ballots, even though they applied for them well within the time frame.
  • There are persistent rumors of a bus or busses coming from the Valley carrying people to the polls. Further investigation is required.
  • There are persistent rumors from voters and poll workers recognizing folks as Valley residents who registered in Anchorage for this election. Again, a full investigation is required to determine if that is the case and if so, how many precincts are involved.
  • To date, we have been given no proof that the Muni was in possession of the required number of ballots…just their word. Where are the photographs of these stacks of unused ballots?
Anchorage's city clerk, Barbara Gruenstein, who oversaw the election, has issued a fifth Media Advisory, in which she said:
We apologize to the community. We had sufficient ballots, but did not allocate enough of the ballots to the individual precincts, given the turnout and number people who voted outside of their precincts. The use of an outside payroll vendor was not a factor.
Dan Wheeler (photo source)
Dan Wheeler, a city attorney for Anchorage, who serves at the pleasure of just-relected anti-Prop 5 Mayor Dan Sullivan, issued a conflict-of-interest-free media advisory of his own, insisted that voters denied their right to cast ballots weren't really disenfranchised because earlier voters represented them adequately unless it can be proven that later voters wouldn't have voted the same way, due to the "rule of proportionality," which he found in a 1989 Anchorage city attorney opinion citing Hammond vs. Hickel.

Eric Christopher Adams, writing in the Alaska Dispatch, scrutinized Wheeler's logic:
     Here's a simple explanation of "proportional allocation." Let's say your precinct ran out of ballots at 5:30 p.m. Prior to running out of ballots, 55 percent of votes had gone in favor of a proposition and 45 percent had opposed a proposition. Based on the 1989 legal analysis, votes that were not cast because of a ballot shortage would be "generally allocated" by that same proportion -- 55/45. So voters who turned up after 5:30 p.m. but were turned away would be divvied up based on how those voting from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. had voted.
     Is that a fair standard or application of the law?
     "Absolutely not," said ACLU of Alaska Executive Director Jeff Mittman in an interview with Alaska Dispatch Monday afternoon.
     "The supposition of proportional allocation is absolutely ridiculous. To presume that the demographic of voters who showed up between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. is the same demographic that would show up from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m." is preposterous, Mittman said.
     Who votes mid-day? Retirees, senior citizens, voters predisposed to certain values, Mittman contended. And who votes late in the day? Young voters, professionals, people with different values and ideologies.
     "To presume you just somehow 'up the vote' for one side or the other just makes everything worse," Mittman said. "It takes a highly problematic election and makes it a grossly problematic election.
     "We already know voters were disenfranchised" with 53 of 121 precincts running out of ballots, Mittman added. "This is a fact."
Mel Green ruminated at length in Bent Alaska:

Jim Minnery, of the Alaska Family Council
and of anti-LGBT group Protect Your Rights.
Minnery wrote an email blast/facebook
post telling people they could register and
vote on election day, even in precincts in
which they didn't live. Later he said he was
real sorry about that and blamed a city clerk's
office underling whom he couldn't name for
the bad info. What he didn't say was that
less than 45 days earlier, in another email
blast, he told voters to be sure to register
30 days in advance of the election (which
was true). Deceit may run in the Minnery
family — here's Jim's cousin Tom Minnery,
trying to fool Minnesota Senator Al Franken.
Is it possible that the strategy which worked so well  to scotch the Anchorage equal rights ordinance in 2009, was adapted to also scotch the Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative — Prop 5 — in 2012?  Is it possible that Minnery and the Anchorage Baptist Temple’s Jerry Prevo, again, bused in people from the outside the Municipality?
     In any case, one theory that could fit the facts we have so far might posit an organized effort to bum-rush the precincts with the high levels of questioned ballots, leading to ballot shortages. It was simply a matter of exploiting a weakness in the standard election procedures about how the number of ballots distributed to the various precincts — a weakness that the Municipal Clerk’s office had never figured for a weakness, because it had never been challenged before by so many people casting questioned ballots before.
     If someone planned such a bum-rush to take place at multiple precincts  — say, about 43 percent of them — simultaneously, during the after-work rush to the polls, a bottleneck would be created: the clerk’s office would have to contend both with too few staff and with high city traffic to resupply all the affected precincts — all that on top of the confusion and overwhelm that workers at the precincts would be feeling with the unanticipated problems.
     All such a plan would require would be someone with the inside knowledge of how ballots were distributed to the precincts, in order to know how best to bum-rush them.
     Is that what happened?

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