Alaska Election Challenges

 We Must do Better

J. Christian Adams of Public Interest Legal Foundation, and Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation spoke about 2020 Alaska Election irregularities at the Alaska Roundtable on October 26, 2021. They have a wealth of information about Alaska voting and have sued many states to require election accountability. They were brought to Alaska by the Alaska Policy Forum.

Alaska elections have sometimes been volatile. This writer experienced first-hand perhaps the most volatile election for governor in our history, in 1978, when my business was contracted to help Jay Hammond for
Governor
. The Primary Election included charges of election fraud.

In the end Alaskans came together and we got a The Permanent Fund in lieu of unlimited state government. How ironic that today our legislature is split between people who want more state government and those who think the longstanding statutory formula for distributing the Permanent Fund earnings to Alaskans should be honored.

 The 1978 Republican Primary Election determined who would be the Republican candidate in the General Election that year. That close win was referenced in a 2000 University of Alaska Fairbanks publication establishing the historical importance of voting.[1]

 

This publication in 2000 was an appeal to educated Alaskans,
many who had witnessed the election of 1978.

 Charges of primary election fraud were leveled by former Alaska Attorney GeneralEdgar Paul Boyko, on August 22 in a letter to Col. Tom Anderson of the Alaska State Troopers. Boyko cited four incidents and “well over 50 reports of election irregularities not just in Anchorage but all over the state.” [2]

 Lt. Governor Lowell Thomas, who was responsible for conducting the election, ordered a recount to begin September 13. Hickel reportedly trailed Hammond by 147 votes and Democrat Ed Merdes trailed Chancy Croft by 277 votes in the then open primary election.[3] Some 112,000 votes had been cast and both candidates asked for a recount.

 At a September 9 Republican State Convention in Fairbanks, both Hickel and Hammond called for party unity, with Hickel predicting he would be the ultimate winner after the recount. He had led in the
count from the start but lost his lead when challenged ballots were counted.

Challenged ballots determined the outcome.

On October 13 Presiding Superior Judge Ralph Moody threw out the primary election and ordered a new one be held. One week later, On October 20 the Alaska Supreme Court overruled Moody and ordered the general election be held November 7 as planned.

 Members of that Supreme Court were justices Jay Andrew Rabinowitz (Selected by Gov. Egan), Roger Connor (Selected by Gov. Hickel), Robert Boochever (Selected by Gov. Egan), Edmond W. Burke (Selected by Gov. Hammond) and Warren Matthews (Selected by Gov. Hammond).

The final primary count saw the gap between Hickel/Hammond narrow to 96 votes, Hammond 31,894 to Hickel 31,798, of 108,057 cast. Former House Speaker Tom Fink also ran and gained 17,487 votes while a fourth Republican, Jimmie Drew Lockhart got only 451 votes. Democrat Chancy Croft, a former Alaska Senate President, won 8,911 votes to Merde’s 8,639 votes and Jalmar Kerttula’s 7125 votes.

 

Read Alaska Chalet BNB story here: https://donnliston.co/2021/02/the-best-thing-about-being-in-anchorage.html

 
Click to read about the best thing about Los Anchorage

Everybody jumped into the primary election and the person with the most votes won. Democrats split their small pie evenly.

 The general election would be between Hammond and Croft. Hickel mounted a write-in campaign even after his Primary Election defeat. Terry Miller had won the Republican Lt. Gov. primary with 26,492 votes and Katherine Hurley won the Democrat Lt Gov primary with 11,015 votes. These numbers are easily found on the Division of Elections webpage.[4]

 Hickel threw the first punch on October 29, with a Anchorage Times ad aimed at activating supporters, declaring: “Unless the Hickel/Miller write-in succeeds, Jay Hammond will be the next governor.” Using primary election numbers, this ad urged voters to not throw away their votes on anybody but Hickel.

That tactic failed.  

Here is what did work

 My Spenard business was recruited. It was understood that the Anchorage Times supported Hickel. It was further understood that any ad placed there would be seen immediately by the opposition forces for their simultaneous response. As the largest voice in the state, the Times was the field of battle. The continuing Hickel effort had to be countered by stealth.

 A Hammond campaign plan required construction of full-page advertisements in my shop for delivery to the Times for placement in pre-paid pages at the last possible moment before publication. Those ads were constructed using my typesetter, photo screener and light tables. They were then taken across Spenard Road to Anchorage Printing Company to make a Master Photo Mechanical Transfer (PMT). This full-sized photo-ready print was rolled into a cardboard tube and delivered to the Anchorage Times Advertising Department. That Advertising Department manager, Vic Hussey told the Hammond campaign that our facts would be checked before publication was possible. Those tubes of Hammond campaign missiles passed by Hickel Campaign workers picking up stickers for write-in ballot placement–also produced at Anchorage Printing! 

 That became my job. I was briefed prior to each relay by a campaign operative, Bob Clark. I delivered each to the Times Advertising Department and stood my ground. No facts were found to be incorrect. Clark commented on one occasion that my business waiting room—located at the back of a laundromat—was like waiting at a bus stop.

This series of ads in the Anchorage Times in the final days of the election were devastating. But he final ad, published Nov. 7, election day, provided an overview of “The Campaign of 1978.” These were the words on that ad above the signature of Gov. Hammond: 

 You and I have endured together an extraordinary experience.

 The Campaign of 1978, even with its most divisive moments, is a common bond we share. In the years to come, others will hear and read about it.  For those of us who have lived through it, citizen and servant alike, the drama finally comes to a close.

 There have been many differences among the candidacies of Jay Kerttula, Ed Merdes, Chancy Croft, Jimmie Drew Lockhart, Tom Fink, Wally Hickel, Don Wright, Tom Kelly and myself.  For all those differences, we too, have had something in common. Each of
us has believed his ideas for governing Alaska are the best for the state. And we have taken our collective case to you, the Alaskan people, to decide. 
 

Whomever you chose, I hope the divisiveness among us will come to an end as well.

 For it does us no good, either as a State or as a people, to stand divided any longer.  There is too much at stake. There is too much to gain or lose.  There is no other land like Alaska.  And we can hardly predict, let alone perceive fully, what all the future holds except that it is rich with opportunity and challenge alike. Divided, our potentials are in jeopardy; together, we have the advantage.

 More important than who is Governor for the next four years, is that the Alaskan people heal the wounds of this past year.  I pledge myself to this goal, and I ask your vote for that privilege.

 To you who have endured the experience on the Campaign of 1978, and on behalf of those who have worked so hard for their individual
candidates, I wish to express my congratulations and appreciation. 
 

Hammond was re-elected with 49,580 votes. Hickel got 33,555 in his write-in bid. Croft got 25,656 votes. Alaskans who had previously voted to move the state capital from Juneau to Willow denied a bond proposition for $966 to move it. 

Nearly $1 billion to get the Alaska Capital out of the grip of Seattle seemed too expensive for Alaskans then. We had no understanding of how much we would pay for decades to have state policy decisions made by  politicians who say anything it takes to get elected—then join coalitions to change positions overnight once they arrive in Juneau—almost every year.

Nobody questioned how Lt Gov Thomas ran that state election. No data breaches with new machines to facilitate the already simple process were alleged to be a potential source of fraud. Once it was over, in 1978, we all sighed relief.

But the election of 2020 still burns

Some Alaskans were concerned about voting machines before the 2020 election and took steps to tell their concerns to Gov. Michael Dunleavy and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyers.

 

 

Selective hand counts occurred.

We fought for a year against buying these machines, said Holly Sheldon. The state bought them before the election for $4 million. They arrived in August. 

Sheldon has documented: The State of Alaska ordered three hundred and six Dominion Part# 181-000028 ICPT 321C voting machines and four hundred and forty Dominion Part # 190-000056 Image Cast X Prime, Vendor/Mft Part# HID-21V-BTX-BIR voting machines, and launched them into service despite public skepticism, warnings, and three certified legal notices to Alaska’s Lt. Governor and Governor, with a demand not to use the Dominion voting machines due to evidence of voting machine vulnerability. This information is part of a resolution which Sheldon has prepared and is circulating to others who share her concerns. It is posted in its entirety in the References.[4]

Lt Gov. Meyer was condescending in his response. 

 

Over the past year Sen. Mike Shower has also attempted to get information from the Alaska Division of Elections and he reports also being stiff-armed. Shower has been turning up the heat at public events, including the one with several legislators in attendance held at the Alaska Roundtable on October 25th.

Sen. Ron Gilliam, Hans von Spakovsky, J. Christian Adams, Sen. Shelley Hughes, Sen. Michael Shower, Rep. James Kaufman, Rep. Cathy Tilton, Rep. Sarah Vance, Sen. Roger Holland, kneeling.

 

The public’s lack of confidence in how our elections are being conducted with machines that can be hooked to the internet, continues to be a concern. Many other states are facing election integrity challenges and policy
groups like The Alaska Roundtable have arrived at some expectations before the next general election.

 

 

This writer stated concerns about what happened in the last election in a previous blog posting:

 I don’t trust this way of voting. It isn’t enough that we all register online for everything and the data becomes voluminous as it is interfaced with everything else we have ever filled out online in the World Wide Web. I was amazed at the amount of Outside money poured into wack-job candidates for U.S. Senate and Congress in 2020. Adding to my skepticism, after that election, I was notified by Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer that I was one of some 119,000 Alaskans who had been “hacked,” and my personal information may be compromised! VOTER INFORMATION. How can this be? Isn’t protecting the integrity of our elections the primary job of our Lt.
Governor–besides protecting the state seal?

 Now I’m worried about the state seal. [5]

 But there is another result of the 2020 elections we know will impact HOW Alaskans vote in very tangible ways: Proposition 2 won by 3,781 votes out of 344,283 cast. [6]

 

Until the votes were counted this Outside-inspired initiative was too close to call. The education campaign was pure propaganda, appealing to people’s worst feelings about politicians. It suggested if we had more opportunities to vote we would pick better elected officials.

 But worse than that, hand-counts of ranked choice voting may be impossible.

 Before the 2020 election we were provided information about candidates, and given the choice among those candidates, first in the primary. Then, from the candidates who won in the primary we were given the opportunity to choose candidates to go to Juneau and represent us in deliberations there. Ranked Choice Voting does nothing to improve the quality of candidates available for voters to select from. 

 We deserve the people we elect. We don’t need a re-structuring of elections. Under the traditional election system we each saw the product of our choices directly, under the principle of “one man one vote.”[7]
If we didn’t like an elected official we simply mounted a campaign to remove them in the next election.

 The Division of Elections provides the following explanation of how the new election scheme will work:

Alaska is a great place with great people. Some were born here, some came here from other places, but we mostly share our love of independence and liberty. Our elected officials are accessible, and our
institutions must be constrained and transparent. Currently the top executives refuse to consider serious concerns brought forth by serious Alaskans. We must have confidence in the basic relationship between Alaskans and elected officials as it occurs in the election process.

Furthermore, honest elections should bring honorable Alaskans together for the good of our wonderful state.

References:

[1]University of Alaska booklet to promote lobbying efforts

 [2] Anchorage Times story, August 1978.

 [3] Definition of open primary: a primary in which the voter is not required to indicate party affiliation

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/open%20primaries

 [4]

 

[5]Are Honest Alaskans Being Played for Fools?

https://donnliston.co/2021/03/alaska-election-questions.html

 [6] Alaska Division of Elections Information

https://www.elections.alaska.gov/results/20GENR/data/sovc/ElectionSummaryReportRPT24.pdf

[7] One Man One Vote Rule

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/one-person_one-vote_rule

Definition

The One-Person One-Vote Rule refers to the rule that one person’s voting power ought to be roughly equivalent to another
person’s within the same state.

Another previous story on Alaska Election Concerns:

Fighting for Alaska Election Integrity

https://donnliston.co/2021/05/alaskans-have-much-to-lose

 

 

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