Editor’s note: This story has been updated as of 4:05 p.m.
A meeting at Homer City Hall, Cowles Council Chambers, of the Homer Canvass Board at 1 p.m. Friday to count about 850 outstanding absentee and other ballots got delayed when the city clerk’s office discovered an 18-vote discrepancy between the number of people voting on Tuesday and the number of ballots counted. City Clerk Melissa Jacobsen advised the canvass board to do a recount of ballots cast in Homer Precincts 1 and 2 on June 13.
As of 4 p.m. today, canvass board officials had finished recounting those precincts and begun counting the absentee, early voting and other ballots. A meeting is scheduled for the Cowles Council Chambers at 5 p.m., and the canvass board may have to continue counting on Saturday at a time to be announced. The counts are being done using optical scanner machines.
In a memo to the canvass board on June 16, Jacobsen said the clerk’s office discovered the discrepancy when staff reviewed on Wednesday precinct voter registers and ballots recorded in optical scanning voting machines. In precinct 2, 488 voters signed the register, but 477 ballots were cast, an 11-vote undercount. In precinct 1, 601 voters signed the register, but 594 ballots were cast, a 7-ballot undercount.
The special election was on the question of if Homer City Council members Donna Aderhold, David Lewis and Catriona Reynolds should be recalled. The “no” votes lead for all three council members, with the tightest race on Tuesday for Reynolds, with a 33-vote margin of “no” votes over “yes” votes. The discrepancy does not change the preliminary results.
Jacobsen wrote that the undercount happened when poll workers reported the optical scan units not taking the ballots and multiple attempts having to be made. Jacobsen contacted the Alaska Division of Election for advice, and she wrote that she was told to push a button on the machine and the voter could insert the ballot and it would go through. Jacobsen, recently appointed City Clerk, but before that a deputy clerk, said this was the first time she had seen such a discrepancy.
On Thursday, Jacobsen contacted Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship for guidance on how to proceed. Blankenship and deputy clerk Michele Turner were in Homer for a borough meeting. Blankenship is the election supervisor for borough precincts. Jacobsen, Blankenship and Turner counted the number of ballots for precinct 2 and found 488, the same as the number of people who signed the voter register.
“In hindsight I believe the advice I received from the DOE (Division of Elections) was not correct for the situation that we were experiencing, and that is what caused the discrepancies on election day,” Jacobsen.
This is a developing story and it will be updated as more information comes in.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at email@example.com