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Division of Elections Found Some Irregularities in East Anchorage District 15 Absentee Ballot Count


August 28, 2018
Tuesday PM

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - The Alaska Division of Elections, in preparing for the 2018 primary election and in its initial review of absentee ballot applications, discovered some irregularities that prompted a second round of review of all absentee ballots from East Anchorage House District 15. This review only involves the application and the ballot envelope. The division reviewed and count the votes today. 

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In the Republican primary in that district, just yesterday Republican candidate Aaron Weaver was leading incumbent Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R) by just three votes. However today, after the State of Alaska Division of Elections completed the provisional count of all the ballots cast in the House District 15 Republican Primary Election, the incumbent legislator, Gabrielle LeDoux, is reported to be leading Aaron Weaver by 87 votes, excluding the absentee ballots that the division has categorized as suspect. With the suspect absentee ballots included, LeDoux leads Weaver by 113 votes.

The total numbers reported today are as follows:

Ballot numbers:

  • In-person, early, and questioned ballots counted: 636
  • All absentee ballots: 208
  • Suspect absentee ballots: 26 Vote totals:
  • Excluding suspect absentee ballots: o Votes for LeDoux – 426
    o Votes for Weaver – 339
  • Including suspect absentee ballots: o Votes for LeDoux – 452
  • Votes for Weaver – 339

The number of ballots counted is greater than the number of votes recorded in the House District 15 race because not all voters who cast a ballot voted in the House District 15 Republican Primary.

Yesterday, one irregularity discovered by the Division of Electons was a high number of absentee ballots from East Anchorage's House District 15 returned as undeliverable. According to the Division of Elections, in every election, some absentee ballots mailed out by the division are returned by the post office as undeliverable. The division makes efforts to contact those voters and get them new ballots, but there are always some voters the division is never able to reach according to the division. What raised suspicions in this election cycle is that of those voters that the division was not able to reach over 50 percent (40 out of 70) were from House District 15.  

Another irregularity was seven absentee ballot applications received for House District 15 from people who state records indicated were deceased. For these applications, the division did not send ballots to those persons. 

The division’s previous second round of review of absentee ballots from House District 15 revealed that there is no reason to be concerned about the vast majority of absentee ballots from the district. The division reviewed various records and confirmed that most absentee voters had long voting histories at their addresses and their signatures matched division records over many years.  

The Division of Elections reported yesterday that other ballots raised concerns that the person identified as the voter either did not actually vote the ballot or was no longer living in House District 15. The division said they have been diligently investigating those concerns. 

After identifying all such ballots, the division attempted to contact the voters on the phone to confirm whether they actually voted and where they were living.  Some of the phone numbers were no longer in service or no one picked up the phone. Among the voters that the division was able to reach, some confirmed that they had indeed voted, but two of the voters contacted said they had not voted in the 2018 primary election. The division will not count the ballots voted in those two voters’ names. 

In light of the remaining questions over some of the ballots and the close race between two candidates in the Republican primary in East Anchorage's House District 15, the division planned the following when it counts absentee ballots for House District 15: 

  • All absentee ballots from the district will be kept with their envelopes rather than commingled. This will ensure that any votes later identified as improper can be subtracted from the vote totals.  
  • The division will first count the absentee ballots that do not raise authenticity concerns and then determine the candidates’ vote totals including those ballots. 
  • The division will then count the absentee ballots that do raise authenticity concerns, but about which the division does not currently have evidence to merit rejection, to see if those votes would affect the outcome of the primary election. 
  • The division will have a provisional count on the election completed tomorrow, but the final count will not be certified until Saturday. 
  • The division will continue to evaluate the legitimacy of those ballots until the deadline for certification of the election result on Saturday. 

When there are questions about a ballot, the Alaska Supreme Court has said the law favors counting the ballot so that voters will not be disenfranchised without good reason. For this reason, the division will not reject ballots without clear evidence that the voter identified on the ballot did not vote the ballot or that the ballot is otherwise improper.  

“The integrity of our elections is vital to our democracy,” said Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke. “The division will continue to look into this matter throughout the week and remove any ballots that we determine should not be counted.” 

The division briefed the candidates and the Alaska Republican Party Monday on the matter. The division will certify the election results on Saturday, September 1, 2018 as required by statute. A candidate or group of voters may request a recount or file an election contest if they wish to challenge the result in court. Any challenge will need to be resolved quickly because the division needs to know the winner of the primary in time to print ballots for the general election.

Tuckerman Babcock, the chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, told the Anchorage Daily News that this is just an issue in the Republican Party's primary and said no Democratic ballots were brought into question.

The division will accept absentee ballots up until the close of business on Friday, August 31. The division intends to certify the House District 15 Primary Election on Saturday, September 1. That means these numbers could still change. But at this point, it appears that the 26 suspect absentee ballots will not impact the outcome of the election. The suspect absentee ballots have been referred to the Criminal Division of the Department of Law for further investigation.

District 15's Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R), left the Republican caucus after the 2016 elections and joined a majority coalition that included all 17 Democrats, two independents, and Republicans Paul Seaton and Louise Stutes. The coalition elected Bryce Edgmon(D) as speaker and LeDoux became the Rules Committee chairwoman. Following the formation of the coalition, Alaska GOP Chairman Tuckerman Babcock invited LeDoux, Seaton, and Stutes to leave the party and said they would face challengers in the Republican primaries on August 21, 2018.

Today, District 15 candidate Gabrielle LeDoux issued the following statement in response to media reports of voting irregularities during the recent Republican Party's Primary Election. 

LeDoux said, “I did not think it was appropriate to comment on the election while it was undecided and there were still a substantial number of votes outstanding. Now, with virtually all the votes counted, I now have a 10-point [sic] lead, which is as good as almost any other winning margin in this election. District 15 is a very low turnout district, which is why I have always campaigned by going door-to-door more than almost any other candidate in the state. I like to meet voters face to face."

LeDoux said, "I have never looked for ways to manufacture votes, which is what the Republican Party Chairman is accusing me of. In this day and age of voter verification, that would be absurd. There are a large number of Hmong people in District 15. The Hmong have played a great and often overlooked role in defending America. As a State Representative I have worked successfully to get them the recognition they deserve. During every election cycle I bring a prominent Hmong voting advocate to the district to talk to Hmong Residents and try to get them to turn out and vote. This is no different than what any campaign of either party does from coast to coast. Any ballot irregularities were properly detected by the Division of Election. I would expect no less. The votes that have decided this election are, by the Division of Election’s own standards, valid votes.”


Reporting & Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews.


Source of News:

Alaska Division of Elections

District 15 candidate Gabrielle LeDoux



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