‘Things can swing wildly’: Only about 10,000 votes counted after election day

A look inside the Ship Creek election center on Election Day.
A look inside the Ship Creek election center on Election Day.(staff)
Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 6:01 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The biggest story that came out of the initial results of Anchorage’s municipal elections was that there were few votes counted Tuesday night, with just 10,438 ballots tallied.

According to the Anchorage Municipal Clerk’s office, 45,726 ballots were in the office leading into election day, and 13,000 were estimated to be received on election day. An announcement from the clerk’s office said they scanned approximately 30,000 votes, but only those 10,438 were officially adjudicated and counted.

Barbara Jones, the municipal clerk, explained that people had to step in to double-check the scanners. She said there were not that many ballots that had imperfections like overfilled bubbles, scratched-out names or other things that triggered the scanners. However, the ones that did were enough to hold up the process so that only a small percentage of total votes were counted on election night.

“So you’re scanning, and taking a photo of the ballot. And then the ballot goes to the next step, which in some circumstances, it needs a human to come and look at it,” Jones said. “And the code says, when a human needs to look at it - if a voter makes a correction, if a voter overvotes, or if it’s a blank ballot. And then after the human adjudicates it, then the votes are counted or tabulated.”

She said now the municipality needs to go through the remaining ballots. Jones said it could take some time but more results should be released before 5 p.m. Wednesday, with more ballots possible to come in as far as 10 days after election day.

“So we’re going to be busy the rest of this week,” Jones said.

Of course, many of the candidates on the ballot - especially in the crowded mayoral race - are calling it too soon to make any conclusions.

However, there are still some clear front-runners, according to votes available on election night. As of the initial results, Forrest Dunbar is in the lead with 3,701 votes or 36%, and David Bronson right behind him with 3,116 votes or 31% of what votes have been counted so far.

Both of them feel good, but aren’t getting ahead of themselves.

“We’re real encouraged where we’re sitting at, but remember there’s a lot of votes that haven’t been counted. So we’re going to kind of be patient with that,” Bronson said.

“I feel good. I think my team feels good. But of course, there’s still a lot of votes to be counted, so we’re certainly not celebrating just yet,” Dunbar said.

As more votes are counted, more things could change.

At Bill Evans’ campaign, for example, the candidate is taking the initial results for what they’re worth. He acknowledged that he and his team have an idea of where things could go, but they could change.

Evans is in fourth place at the end of the first night of counting behind Bill Falsey. Evans secured 999 votes, putting him at around 10%.

“You know we were hoping for better early results, but it’s only like five percent in,” Evans said. “So we’re hoping that improves, but we’re realistic about what our expectations are for tonight.”

Another item on the ballots, that aims to end a candidate’s time in office rather than start one, is the effort to recall Midtown assembly member Felix Rivera.

The initial results tip in his favor, with 939 votes to keep him in his position and 638 to remove him from the assembly. But here again, he’s being realistic about the present numbers.

“Yeah, I definitely don’t want to prognosticate and then be wrong. That’s a clip that I don’t want out there in the world,” he said. “So I’m just going to say that I’m happy with the results that we have right now, and I hope that they continue in the trend that they are in.”

Leaders of the effort to recall the assembly member did not respond to requests for comment.

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