State completes audit of Ballot Measure 2, confirming election reform initiative’s win

The Midtown Mall early in-person voting location. (Photo by Matt Buxton/TMS)

The state completed its unusual audit of the vote on Ballot Measure 2, a move that Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer requested to, as he claimed, build confidence in the new vote-counting machines used in the election—the Dominion machines that have been at the heart of Trump conspiracy theories about the election—and that the count was correct.

The results, which were released over the weekend, show an overall difference of 171 votes between the count generated by the voting machines and the count produced by the hand review of 361,400 ballots reviewed during the last week in front of observers from each side of the initiative.

Ballot Measure 2’s victory was certified last month with 174,032 votes in favor and 170,251 votes against. The audited results show 173,929 votes for (103 fewer votes) and 170,183 votes against (68 fewer votes). The difference is about .05%, chalked up largely to how the machines count or don’t count marks where a voter’s intent may not have been clear.

“This audit showed what the division knew it would; that our equipment worked properly, and the 2020 General Election was administered accurately and fairly in the state of Alaska,” said Elections Director Gail Fenumiai in a prepared statement.

Observers have also remarked to us that the results are, at least anecdotally, considerably more accurate than the Diebold AccuVote systems used in the past. We asked Elections Director Gail Fenumiai how the new machines stacked up to previous years, but she says the state doesn’t keep such data.

Meyer’s request to audit the votes was unprecedented and a traditional recount would have cost the campaign $15,000 to review the entire state. In a briefing earlier this month, Meyer said he requested the recount because people didn’t understand that absentee votes—which nearly equaled the number of votes cast in-person on election day—would be counted later and that the results would be different from election night.  

“As you know that one was failing on election night, but I think what people forget is that almost as many people voted absentee and early as those did on election day,” Meyer said during a media briefing earlier this month. “So, when the absentees started to be counted, the vote changed and I think some folks thought something may have gone awry there so to keep confidence and trust in the elections, I ask that we do this audit to confirm the count.”

At the same meeting, he said “I understand some people aren’t happy with the outcome, but that’s elections.”

The background

The measure would enact open primaries where the top four candidates regardless of political party or affiliation advance to the general election. Those general election races would then use ranked choice voting in an effort to ensure the winner has majority support of their district. Finally, the measure also enacts laws intended to create more transparency on independent expenditure money spent to influence candidate races.

The legislation was largely opposed by Republicans and some Democrats, who worried that it would undermine political party’s power in elections. At one hearing, Alaska Republican Party Chairman Glen Clary warned that under the measure, “political parties will become extinct.”

The implementation of the new Dominion voting machines also has opened the door for the results to be a nexus of conspiracy theories.

Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka suggested in a now-deleted Facebook comment on her personal page that if Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results were successful (they weren’t), then it could be used to potentially reverse the results on Ballot Measure 2.

The measure currently faces a legal challenged filed by several individuals, who argue that the measure would violate their associational rights.

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