Despite Republican pushback against by-mail voting, the Alaska Republican Party joined the wave of parties, groups, candidates and incumbent legislators in sending out applications for people to sign up for by-mail absentee ballots as concerns about COVID-19 and this year’s elections grow.
The only problem for the GOP is the 22,000 pre-filled application it sent out went to the wrong voters.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner confirmed the mix-up in a story Wednesday, highlighting how a voter in Fairbanks received the ballot application for a voter from Big Lake, and we’ve heard from another voter who sent us a photo of the pre-filled application that had everything correct except the name.
“I wonder who got my ballot,” the voter told us.
The voter said he or she went to the post office to ask about the ballot where they were told they weren’t the first to flag the issue and that many had brought back their ballots wondering if there was something fishy going on. The News-Miner talked with Fairbanks Region Division of Elections Director Jeremy Johnson, who confirmed the same thing.
“We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls, walk-in traffic, Twitter and Facebook comments about it thinking this is all voter fraud,” Johnson said, noting that in some cases voters were mad.
Both Johnson and Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai told the News-Miner that there was nothing wrong with the state’s official database and that the information was correct when the Alaska Republican Party purchased the voter list.
Instead, the problem rests with how the party prepared the database for mailing or, as Alaska Republican Party Director Glenn Clary explained, a printing malfunction. He said the party is sending out new ballots.
“We’re letting them know that this mishap happened and we’re sending out new applications,” Clary told the News-Miner.
The Alaska Republican Party has not owned up to the error in any public posts to date, however, and the News-Miner report says that the party had not initially contacted the Division of Elections about the error.
Fairbanks Elections Director Johnson said he would hope to see a public statement owning up to the error, noting that if people for some reason do fill out the messed up applications and return them that it would update the voter’s address and potentially move them out of their district.
“It would be great if they would issue some press release taking responsibility,” Johnson told the paper. “It erodes public confidence in the process, and that is really hard to get back. When somebody thinks it’s messed up, it’s hard to get them to have faith again.”
As always, any Alaska voter can apply for a by-mail absentee ballot for any reason. Though the state is continuing to push ahead with in-person voting despite a litany of concerns about safety and adequate staffing, it has created an online application for the by-mail absentee ballots.