Election Day

"I Voted" stickers and ballot envelopes await voters at the Fairbanks #1 Precinct Polling Station in the Fairbanks North Star Borough Administrative Building Tuesday afternoon, October 2, 2018.

The Alaska Division of Elections has reported a statewide mix-up by the Alaska Republican Party in thousands of absentee ballot applications mailed out this month by the party and which has caused some voters to become concerned about possible fraud.

An information merging error dissociated the names and addresses of thousands of Alaska voters registered as Republican, undeclared or nonpartisan. That is, anyone who qualifies to receive a Republican ballot in the mail, according to Jeremy Johnson, Fairbanks Region Division of Elections director.

Alaska Republican Party Director Glenn Clary cited a printing malfunction as the source of the error that resulted in approximately 22,000 misprinted absentee ballot applications being sent to the wrong recipients statewide.

The voter database at the Division of Elections was correct when the information was purchased by the Alaska Republican Party, Johnson said, emphasizing that the division’s database remains correct and the mix-up in information happened after the Division of Elections provided the information to the Alaska GOP.

The party is reprinting the ballot applications and will be resending them to the correct recipients, Clary explained Tuesday, noting he has received numerous calls from confused voters who received a misprinted ballot application. 

“We’re letting them know that this mishap happened and we’re sending out new applications,” Clary said.   

However, voters who have contacted the Division of Elections itself, Johnson said, are worried and in some cases “mad.”

The error was brought to Johnson’s attention when a Fairbanks resident who lives on Esro Road informed him that she had received a mail-in ballot application that was addressed to her residence but printed with a different voter’s name. As it turns out, the name belonged to a voter who lives in Big Lake, Johnson said. Big Lake is a small community in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and about 315 miles southwest of Fairbanks.

The mix-up could present a larger problem if not properly addressed, Johnson explained.

For example, if a voter were to fill out and turn in one of these misprinted applications, it could change that voter’s registration to the community in the address, Johnson said. Therefore, had the application sent to Esro Road been filled out mistakenly, the voter in Big Lake would then be registered in Fairbanks and all related House and Senate districts for that voter would no longer be accurate. 

“We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls, walk-in traffic, Twitter and Facebook comments about it thinking this is all voter fraud,” Johnson said. 

But, there is no potential for voter fraud, Clary countered. 

Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai confirmed in a Tuesday afternoon email that the misprints had “caused voter confusion and resulted in many phone calls to (the Division of Elections) offices.”

“Some voters were concerned about fraud,” Fenumiai wrote, adding that the division’s data remains accurate. 

“We assured voters there was nothing wrong with the state’s voter registration system,” she explained.

Voters can handle this in one of a few ways, Fenumiai explained Tuesday. They can use the misprinted application, scratch through the incorrect name and provide their own name and submit it to the division, they can wait for a second ballot to be sent by the Alaska Republican Party or they can apply online.

The three options will not result in mistaken registration. 

When the issue was brought to Johnson’s attention, the Alaska Republican Party had not contacted the Division of Elections about the issue.

“It would be great if they would issue some press release taking responsibility,” Johnson said. “It erodes public confidence in the process, and that is really hard to get back. When somebody thinks it’s messed up, it’s hard to get them to have faith again.”

Clary did not state Tuesday whether or not the Alaska Republican Party would be issuing a statewide explanation bringing the issue to voters’ attention. No post had been made to the public Alaska Republican Party website, Facebook or Twitter pages as of Tuesday afternoon.   

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.