Mat-Su Borough Assembly votes to hand count November election ballots

The resolution was sponsored by assembly member Dee McKee
The resolution is sponsored by Assembly Member Dee McKee
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 6:19 PM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2022 at 7:16 AM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly passed a resolution Tuesday to hand count ballots in the Nov. 8 election, deviating away from use of electronic voting machines.

The resolution unanimously passed as amended just before 10 p.m. Tuesday at the regular assembly meeting. Borough Mayor Edna DeVries does have the power to veto, but told Alaska’s News Source Wednesday morning that she does not plan to veto.

The resolution comes after a number of concerned residents of the Matanuska and Susitna valleys expressed their distrust in voting machines and the potential compromise to election integrity.

The ballot-counting machines have been under scrutiny, leaving some voters wary that their ballots aren’t being counted correctly.

Assembly Member for District 3, Dee McKee, sponsored the resolution that was brought forth at the meeting, with two other assembly members moving to amend it.

The proposal seeks to direct the clerk to verify election results by hand counting all ballots in the upcoming election after the machine counts have been tabulated.

Voters will cast ballots for two assembly seats and five school board seats on Tuesday, Nov. 8. One of the assembly members who moved to amend the resolution was Stephanie Nowers of District 2.

“What I’m proposing is a measure that we could do year after year without costing the taxpayers, you know, a ton of money,” Nowers said. “That would allow us to verify the elections and make sure that all the votes are counted.”

Nower’s amendment suggests three precincts be picked at random for hand counting, as opposed to the entire borough.

“Nobody would know what they are ahead of time so there’s no way to game the system,” Nowers stated.

Nowers — whose seat is up for reelection next month — said this method would drastically cut the cost to the taxpayers, estimating an approximate $240 compared to the estimated $7,000 in McKee’s resolution.

The idea is to be able to sustain hand-counting ballots for future elections in the borough as well.

Assemblymember for District 1, Tim Hale, also moved to amend McKee’s resolution by tasking the borough’s clerk to utilize $10,000 from the Assembly Reserve to cover costs associated with hand-counting ballots.

Taxpayer costs aside, Nowers is also concerned about overwhelming the borough’s clerk — who is already tasked with counting absentee ballots. Nowers is worried that over-tasking borough employees might open opportunities for other errors to occur.

“The other advantage of doing three precincts is it’ll take much less time,” Nowers said. “I don’t want to see errors introduced into our system by stretching our election officials too thin.”