by Mel Green
Headlines which announce the failure of Proposition 5 are premature. Unanticipated voter turnout due to irregularities caused by misinformation sent out by Prop 5 opponent Jim Minnery leave a deep cloud over election results.
I wrote a story yesterday which I gave the title “Yes on 5: The final lap.” But I was wrong. It turns out we may have a few more laps to go.
In spite of the Anchorage Daily News headline “Voters reject sexual orientation initiative”, it’s far from clear that voters have in fact done so. Two hours before voting ended last night, numerous polling places had run out of ballots. Staff of the municipal clerk’s office was sent scurrying all over town bringing additional ballots and even additional envelopes for questioned ballots. Thousands of unanticipated questioned ballots were cast, some of them by voters who had been forced to stand in line waiting to vote, others by voters who might, according to Municipal Clerk Barbara Gruenstein, not even be qualified to vote in this election. There were scattered reports of some voters being turned away from the polls. And questions abounded.
Questioned ballots abounded, too. By night’s end, the municipal clerk’s office was left with an unknown number of questioned ballots, and had no real idea of how long it might take to examine them and count the valid ones. Absentee ballots (including early voting ballots), which were also used in high numbers, had also not been counted. Absentee and question ballots will be counted on April 13.
Will those ballots be enough to tip the scale in favor of Proposition 5? We don’t know. We also don’t know who much they might affect other races.
And again, the questions abound: how did this situation come to be? might the election be challenged? is there any basis for those whispers about possible fraud?
Anchorage elections normally have a fairly low voter turnout. Mayoral elections — which this one was — tend to have slightly higher turnouts. According to Alaska Dispatch, the last mayoral election had a 30 percent turnout, compared with 23 percent and 20 percent in recent non-mayoral years.
But this year’s turnout was unprecedented, at a level no one could have foreseen. Or so we’d might like to assume.