From oddly marked ballots and disappointing voter turnout, to election integrity and political friendly fire, there is a lot to glean from Anchorage’s most recent citywide election. Here’s some of what I’ve learned.


City Clerk Barbara Jones, who has now overseen five Anchorage elections, was thrown a curveball on election night. On April 8, I spent about an hour with her going over the election process.

As she and her team were processing tens of thousands of ballots on April 6, a strange phenomenon unfolded as election workers fed ballots into the voting machines. It turns out that many ballots had unusual markings which caused the machines to flag them as unreadable and in need of human inspection and verification.

According to Jones, a large number of ballots (although she doesn’t know for sure how many) had every single oval by a candidates’ name filled in, and a line was then drawn through all the candidates that the voter did not wish to vote for. This is something Jones said she has never seen or heard of happening before, and she’s not sure why people chose to vote that way.

Vote machines also flagged another group of ballots in which voters filled in the oval by the candidate they support, but then struck a line through all the other names and ovals.

While both approaches to voting are legal according to city code, they slowed vote tabulation because all these oddly marked ballots had to be inspected by either the clerk, deputy clerk or the election manager before they could be tabulated. This partly explains why the initial election night summary only reported 10,606 votes.

While Jones has no idea why people voted this way, it does raise some concerns. It’s understandable why a voter might strike a line through all the candidates they do not support and then fill the oval out for the one they back. We’ve had Anchorage residents confirm they took this very approach to ensure that their vote was properly counted. The much larger group of ballots, however, that had all ovals filled out and then lines struck through the ones the voter did not want, is more perplexing, and it’s something Jones has never seen before.

One concern is that these ballots could have been tampered with and no one would ever know. For instance, if a normally marked ballot were filled out, a bad actor could later fill in all the other ovals and cross out the ones they didn’t like (including the one the voter intended to support). Just when that might occur is anyone’s guess, but it would be an easy way to alter a ballot and still have it validly counted.

It would be interesting to know how those ballots with all ovals filled in broke, and exactly how many there were. Did they lean in favor of conservative or liberal candidates or were they randomly divided? Jones said she doesn’t separate out these oddly marked ballots, and the public won’t have an opportunity to inspect them unless there is a recount or an election challenge. Even then, it would be tedious work, as the oddly marked ballots are interspersed throughout some 73,000 other ballots.


Regarding election integrity, there are at least two issues that should be addressed. The first is quite simple.

Image of the livestream coverage of the Anchorage election center.

Each day, a livestream video of the election center is broadcast on the city’s website. It begins at 8 a.m. and cuts off at 5 p.m. According to Jones, all ballot processing occurs during this timeframe so the public can observe. If there is ever a need to handle ballots after 5 p.m., Jones said she makes sure the livestream continues until all election workers are finished. This rarely happens, she said, but there was an instance this week where a voting machine jammed and the feed continued until 5:30 p.m. while workers fixed the jam.

Livestreaming is a good idea, but there is absolutely no rationale for it to ever cease until every single vote has been counted and the election process is entirely completed. If a 24/7 livestream of Katmai brown bears catching salmon can run around the clock, there’s no reason the city needs to cut off its livestream at 5 p.m. during an election. A continuous livestream would provide another layer of assurance that nothing untoward is taking place after hours in the election center.

Municipality of Anchorage ballot drop box.

A separate issue is how ballots are gathered from drop boxes scattered around the city. Under the current process, election workers drive out to these sites, unlock the boxes, scoop up the envelopes and put them in black bags. They then bring these bags of envelopes back to the election center for processing.

This crucial step of gathering envelopes from drop boxes needs more oversight. Why couldn’t the pickup times be announced to the public so people could view (or even follow around) the team that picks up the ballots. Bodycams might be another way to publicly demonstrate that ballots are not being taken to some other location and tampered with before they are brought back to the election center.


It’s no secret that conservative candidates have an uphill battle in Anchorage, which is much more liberal leaning than the state as a whole.

This year, conservatives seem to have suffered from friendly fire. In nearly every race, from mayor to school board, conservatives fielded multiple candidates which ultimately fractured the vote and handed the election to a leftist candidate. This simply cannot happen if Anchorage is ever going to swing back to the middle or even slightly to the right.

In the mayoral race, Dave Bronson, Mike Robbins and Bill Evans divided up conservative support to the point that no one was able to reach the 45% threshold needed to win outright. While there is still about 30% of the vote left to tabulate, Bronson has so far earned 32%, Evans has 9.5% and Robbins has 7.5%. If combined into one candidate, those votes would have yielded a conservative winner. As it is, Bronson will be forced into a runoff next month against far-left Forrest Dunbar.

The same scenario has played out in three of the four school board races where multiple conservatives split the vote, and now all are on their way to losing. While you can’t prohibit people from running for office, conservatives need to coordinate to avoid running in vain.


For all the anger, frustration and protests against Anchorage Assemblyman Felix Rivera, he will easily retain his powerful position as chair of the Assembly. The latest numbers have Rivera comfortably defeating a recall effort against him 58% to 42%. In fact, there are only 3,417 votes cast to recall him so far. That will likely move closer to 5,000 but will be well short of the needed number.

When the dust finally settles, there will likely be some 30,000 voters in Assembly District 4 who just never bothered to vote. Why the outrage against Rivera’s controversial reign as chairman has not resulted in far greater turnout is a mystery.

The Reclaim Midtown group, which helped organized the recall effort, points to the fact that $30,000 in television ads from the AFLCIO, $10,000 ads from California’s Tide Advocacy, and $30,000 from the Alaskan’s Together for Equality “likely bought him back his seat.” But it wasn’t as if Anchorage voters didn’t know about the importance of this recall. It received heavy and sustained media coverage for the better part of a year. Complaining without voting is like spitting in the wind.


The last point deals with the fact that tens of thousands of Anchorage residents like the old in-person voting system. On election day, some 13,000 voters flooded the Loussac Library to physically cast a ballot. It caught the clerk off guard and the election team scrambled to beef up staff and bring down more ballots.

The city needs to reconsider its universal mail-in voting system. Mail-in ballots are simply not as secure as in-person voting where you must provide ID on site. This approach also addresses chain-of-custody concerns, as voters can feed their ballot directly into the voting machine without having to utilize the post office or drop boxes before ballots make it to the election center.

If you want mail-in voting, fine, but take a cue from the state and only send ballots to registered voters who specifically request them. Everyone else should be afforded the choice of voting in person, which most will choose.

Elections will never be 100% free of fraud or tampering, but there are significant and realistic steps to improve the way Anchorage conducts its elections.

Click here to support the Alaska Watchman.

Observations, concerns and suggestions about Anchorage’s election

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Jmk says:

    It appears there was some examples in the instructions that showed crossing out and I wonder if somehow some people interpreted that as they way to vote??? Maybe faulty instructions or perhaps unclear for English language learners?

  • Proud Alaskan says:


  • John J Otness says:

    How flagrant does this communist democrat bull have to get,,, Mail in cheat ballots I can see these imbedded rats having told their minions to blank out all the spaces them draw lines through the candidate to create confusion ,,, This has to stop and these criminals within must be arrested enough of their evil games…. Their power has corrupted their souls. The RINO repugnants say nothing and wait in the shadows for their cut… The public business sector was sabotaged and destroyed while the corporate immune to this evil backed the destruction gleefully cheering the middle class demise. You either stand up in unity and fight these bastards or get picked off one by one.. Dominion is the key… Expose and destroy the dominion element arrest those that implemented it and the State may heal.. The Lethal Vaccine push is all a part of this destroy Alaska do not kid yourself,,, Wake up!!!!!!!

  • smitty says:

    why jones has no idea why people did it that way really
    anyone can see they dont trust your elections they did it so the they could not be altered

  • John Q. Public says:

    Everybody mailed a ballot can choose to ignore them and vote in-person. Nobody is forcing you to vote by mail.

    • Sally Pollen says:

      John Q. Public, you are right, one is not forced to vote by mail. If I’m not mistaken one of the dangers of mail-in voting is that the ballot could be filled out by someone other than the intended. Not only that, with mail-in voting the court ruled shortly before last fall’s election that the ballot did not even have to have the voter’s signature witnessed, and of course, no legitimate voter ID/photo could be checked. Furthermore, what prevents a person to vote by mail and then again in person on election day? For many, voting by mail is an open invitation to fraud.

      • Miss says:

        Several young adults I asked told me they were going to vote but didnt. When asked why they said they wanted to vote in-person but the polling place was closed. I asked if they knew they could go vote in-person at Lousac library or City Hall they said they just thought they can go on Election day like they did “Last time” or “just recently” when they vote for President. This Clearly speaks volumes that we need Election day In-person voting open at regular Polling Places.

  • Mongo Love Candy says:

    They are crossed out because people don’t trust the Dominion voting machines and it forces a hand count.

    • EscapedAnchorage says:

      Really? That’s interesting I think the Domination machines need to go either way

  • George Jarrett says:

    I voted at Loussac. Don’t know why only two voting places in Anchorage. May have worked if it wasn’t so understaffed. Two people handing out ballots and one person collecting them. Things moved pretty slow.

  • George Jarrett says:

    I keep getting ballots for someone who does not live at my address. I write does not live here and put it back in return mail. I’ve called Div of Elections. They just say its a slow process to remove people from the rolls. 4 years should be enough.

  • Art Chance says:

    I’ll post this generally, but it is provoked by “John Q. Public’s” painfully ignorant or deceitful post above. The universal mail-in election is an exercise in election rigging by the Left, principally the unions. The MOA election scheme is set up for heavily organized ballot harvesting. I learned how to do this using rotary phones, poll-watchers, and a clipboard and pencil at the direction of the late Matt Reese who had been JFK’s pollster and strategist when JFK stole the Presidency from Nixon. Modern technology has made the scheme ruthlessly efficient.
    Where we once had to get union stewards/activists off work to hang out at polling places and make note of everyone who voted and run out to the nearest payphone and call the union hall with the info. In the weeks and months before the election, the union and some other highly organized leftist interest groups had been calling their membership lists and registered voters in the district. Their members were expected to vote their way and for the non-members you recorded who your votes and ignored all the voters who weren’t yours. On election day you used your poll-watchers to see who had voted; absentee ballots were a lot harder to get in those days so it was almost exclusively in-person balloting. Depending on the political climate, you either had somebody from the union hall call them and encourage them to vote or sent a couple of knuckle-draggers from the hall to their house to put them in the van.
    In contrast, a conservative/Republican candidate has few organized interest groups with up to date contact lists; they have to campaign at retail using very dirty and incomplete State voter rolls. The unions have thousands of hours of paid time off for “union business” to get employees off their regular work with pay to do boiler room work. Conservative/Republican candidates have to use real volunteers who have to take off from their work or business to do such work. Plus, most of the public employee unions and many of the private unions get an up-to-date list of all of the employees they represent, usually with current address, phone number, and email address; and you are paying for that.
    Today, with long early voting periods and it being public record whose mail-in ballot has been received, somebody just goes down and gets the list of who has voted and the boiler room gets on the phone with everybody on their supporter/member list who hasn’t voted and “encourages” them to vote; in some places they may do more than just encourage voting. In some places, since they have the name and vital information about the voter, the boiler room crew can just vote for them, but they really don’t need to do that here because they are comparatively so well organized.
    So long as we have early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, and universal mail-in balloting, conservatives/Republicans are not likely to ever win another election, and that is the whole idea.

  • Sammy says:

    Thanks alot Bill Evans and Mike Robbins. This would be over if you two hadn’t split the vote!

  • Sean P. Ryan says:

    Why am I seeing multiple people make this exact same point? Whose talking points memo are you reciting? The problem isn’t Evans and Robbins. For one, both entered the race before Bronson. For another, both had support from people who made it pretty clear that they weren’t very interested in supporting Bronson, just like Falsey and Martinez had support from people who weren’t very interested in supporting Dunbar. Will that continue to be the case leading into the runoff? Do you believe that if Evans and Robbins were pressured into dropping out, Falsey and Martinez wouldn’t have been pressured likewise? Don’t be so naive. If your boy is everything you keep saying he is, what do you really have to worry about?

  • thomas says:

    yes, the unions are dirty, they get unethical union friendly people elected in order to funnel\steal taxpayer money. Ever wonder why our public schools get constant upgrades. When I was a kid, the high school I attended was made of concrete and was built in the 1940″s, that high school is still in use today and the only renovations made are new student lockers every 20 years. Why can’t Alaskan workers build such a structure? Alaskan taxpayers are being taken for a ride and its not just the schools. Maybe now, since our oil economy has been toasted by an idiot and a camel-toe, people will start asking questions about the quality of construction among many other things. A great awakening is upon us.