UPDATE: Anchorage election official forgets ballots at home, man says he couldn't vote

 Romig Middle School polling location on election day, Nov. 6, 2018. KTUU photo.
Romig Middle School polling location on election day, Nov. 6, 2018. KTUU photo. (KTUU)
Published: Nov. 6, 2018 at 11:47 AM AKST
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Update: 5:14 p.m.

Division of Elections spokesperson Samantha Miller says the reason the ballots were in the Region II chairperson's home in the first place is due to DOE protocol.

"In Region II, the precinct chairpersons pick up their election materials from the Region II elections office, pick up registers and check everything in," Miller told Channel 2 in an email Tuesday evening. "The ballots are in secured in boxes. [sic] They (elections officials) are trained to keep the election materials secure until Election Day. They are not allowed to leave precinct materials unattended overnight in the polling place because they are to be secured at all times."

Original story:

An Anchorage polling location was without paper ballots early Tuesday morning on Election Day, after an elections official reportedly forgot them at home.

For many, casting ballots on Election Day is something that needs to be worked into their daily routine, meaning either voting in the early morning before work, on a break during the day, or in the evening after leaving for the night.

At least one Anchorage resident ran into trouble with his plan, to vote at 7 a.m. when the polls opened at the Romig Middle School polling location, when there were no paper ballots there.

The reason for no ballots being present at the polling location, according to the Alaska Division of Elections, is because the precinct chairperson forgot them at home, and had to go get them.

"This morning I went to vote around 7 and I went to the middle school and I was approached by an individual and she stated to me they had no ballots. And I said, 'No ballots?'" said Macel Lockridge, an Anchorage resident who had arranged to vote before work Tuesday morning.

"The chairperson made a human mistake by forgetting the ballots at home," said Samantha Miller, spokesperson for DOE.

Miller said the official then left to retrieve the ballots from her home, and returned back to the polling location half an hour later, at 7:30 a.m. According to Lockridge, that's not the case.

Lockridge said that no ballots were available at Romig when he left, around 7:35 a.m. When KTUU arrived at the polling location an hour later, around 8:30 a.m., the paper ballots were present and voters were casting their ballots.

Instead of being able to vote after waiting, Lockridge said that an elections official said for him to come back on his lunch break, which he described as an inconvenience.

"Especially when you take out the time, I took out the time to get my kids up early so I could come out and vote, so I could be there 10 minutes to 7, waiting in the parking lot to go out to vote," Lockridge said. "To have to now use my lunch break to take time to vote it's an inconvenience to me and an inconvenience to the voters [...] I shouldn't have to come in at noon to vote."

Miller said that, despite the paper ballots being left at the chairperson's home, there was an alternative for voters.

"During the time the chairperson was gone, the polling location remained open and voters had the option of voting via Touch Screen," Miller said.

Lockridge said this wasn't the case at Romig, and that the electronic touch screen was not operational at the time he was there.

"It was not up, I asked about that. I saw two women and it looked like they were working on it, and I asked, 'Are they voting?' and they said, 'No no no we are trying to get the machines up right now,'" Lockridge said.

If the touch screen option were available, Lockridge told KTUU that he would have used it.

"Absolutely. Without a doubt. I came in, I was ready, and if they gave me that option, there was many of us that came in that was ready to vote and they turned us away," he said.

In addition to the touch screen option, Miller said another back-up, in the event that ballots aren't available, is to offer sample ballots to voters.

These are essentially demonstration ballots which can be used as official ballots and certified if necessary. Elections officials are trained to offer these in lieu of the paper ballots.

In the case of Romig's missing ballots, however, Miller said that the sample ballots were not offered.

"We are not sure why the voters were not offered the option of using the Sample Ballots and are looking into it," Miller said in an email.

For Lockridge, as well as others he said he observed at the polls, the lack of preparation, even in light of a "human mistake," as the DOE called it, seemed senseless.

"Leading up to this day, and for a voting ballot booth not to have ballots doesn't make sense," Lockridge said. "Leading up to this day, how do we not have ballots at the booth for voters to come out and vote?"

"It is a bad situation, it's a situation where your vote doesn't count. In this election, it's very important for us to get out there and vote," he said.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the ballots were in the home of the voter, when they were in the home of the Region II chairperson. KTUU has reached out to the Alaska Division of Elections for comment on the contradictions of when ballots were available, and whether the touch screen was operational during the interim. This story will be updated.