The courts gave the Alaska Division of Elections the greenlight on Friday to begin mailing out ballots, rejecting an effort to force them to reprint them, but it turns out that a fix is needed anyways.
The Division of Elections is now attempting to recall 135 ballots sent to overseas voters because they did not include the correct slate of candidates, omitting Democrat-backed independent candidate Suzanne LaFrance who is running for House District 28.
LaFrance was one of the last-minute switches made by the Alaska Democratic Party following the results of the primary election, swapping in for Alaska Democratic Party primary winner Adam Lees. It’s Lees, who withdrew from the position, who appears on the ballot against Republican candidate James Kaufman, the campaign discovered over the weekend.
“We’re very concerned,” said Joey Bosworth, the campaign manager for LaFrance. “We were notified directly by a voter of the issue and reached out to the Division of Elections and are in contact with them understanding the extent of the problem and the proposed solutions.”
The Division of Elections Gail Fenumiai confirmed the error when we reached out to them today, saying it affected 135 ballots that were sent out digitally to overseas voters (who print them out, vote and return them by mail) and they’re in the process of recalling those emails and contacting the affected voters.
She said physical ballots sent out this weekend were not affected by the error.
Here’s the full statement:
“I was alerted this morning from the LaFrance campaign to a mistake made by division staff when they updated ballots for House District 28 to reflect the withdrawal of Democratic Nominee Adam Lees from the general election and the Democratic Party’s replacement on that ballot of Suzanne LaFrance,” she said in an email. “Although staff updated the templates for the mailed ballots, the ballots sent through email to be printed out and mailed in were not properly updated with candidate LaFrance’s name. I immediately notified our vendor that manages the online ballot distribution, and the vendor is recalling all of the emails that have been sent with the wrong ballot. We will identify those voters that opened the email, contact them and ensure they get a corrected ballot emailed to them as quickly as possible. I am glad LaFrance’s campaign contacted me as soon as they found out, and I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused for 135 voters that were affected. I will provide more information on how many voters actually opened the emails once I know.”
Fenumiai said they also checked another district’s ballots in case the error affected other candidates.
“I also reviewed the ballots of Senate District F where a similar replacement had occurred and confirmed that the ballots for Senate District F had been properly updated with candidate Jim Cooper’s name,” she said.
The error follows on the heels of a legal battle over a controversial redesign of the ballot that omits the voter registration of Democrat-backed independents and candidates who reached the ballot via petition, including Libertarian candidates for the Alaska Legislature. The state has defended the action—which opponents say favors Republican opposition to these independent candidates—as legal, though it’s refused to explain why the change was made.
LaFrance, a current member of the Anchorage Assembly, is an independent candidate.
Asked about the ballot controversy and omission of LaFrance, Bosworth said they’re still working to understand what happened.
“We’re still waiting to understand the extent of the problem and will have further comment at that point,” he said.
Why it matters
After the state argued that reprinting ballots with voter registration would “blow up the election,” this is certainly an interesting development. Of course, this error only affected digital ballots and not printed ones, which were the primary focus of the case brought by Democrat-backed independent congressional candidate Alyse Galvin, but it certainly undercuts the claim that notifying voters of a candidate’s party status is a near-impossible task.
The case brought by Galvin is still underway.