State sends out 135 absentee ballots with wrong candidate listed

(Jordan Rodenberger (KTVF))
Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 7:52 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Some of the first absentee ballots for Alaska’s November primary election have already been sent out electronically to Alaskans currently overseas, but 135 of those ballots were sent out listing the wrong candidate for one State House of Representatives race.

Suzanne LaFrance, a registered nonpartisan, is the Democratic nominee for House District 28, running against Republican James Kaufman and independent Benjamin Fletcher for the seat currently held by Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage. However, on the ballots emailed out, in place of LaFrance’s name was the name of the previous Democratic candidate Adam Lees, who withdrew from the primary August 31 and was replaced by LaFrance.

“I received confirmation on Sunday from an overseas voter that I wasn’t on the ballot,” LaFrance said.

Following that confirmation, LaFrance reached out on Monday to the Division of Elections for more information. The Division’s Director, Gail Fenumiai, said in a written statement the mix-up happened as a result of a staff mistake where the template for emailed ballots was not updated along with the template for regularly-mailed ones.

“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,” she wrote.

“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.”

Lindsey Kavanaugh, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party said she was disappointed, but not surprised by this development.

“This has now certainly put us on notice to keep an eye on everything that goes out,” she said. “Because this is just one of many mistakes that we’ve seen this year.”

Kavanaugh and LaFrance said they’re thankful the Division is working to address the issue, but pointed at a recent lawsuit over the state’s design of the general election ballot dropping the identifier for independent candidates as a reason this was especially concerning.

“The agency has a track record of making still inexplicable last-minute changes that fundamentally reconfigure the ballot,” LaFrance said. “So this may have been a mistake, but there’s no question that the [Division] of Elections is in danger of losing the public trust.”

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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