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Democrats: 2004 election data altered

Posted: Friday, October 06, 2006

Alaska Democratic Party officials say the 2004 election data they sued the state to get may have been changed this year, and they want to know why.

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Party Chairman Jake Metcalfe says a review of the central tabulator file containing that year's raw election results by precinct showed activity on the database between July 12 and 13 of this year. In a letter to Alaska Division of Elections director Whitney Brewster, Metcalfe said he does not understand why the data would be changed after the party petitioned for its release.

"As a result of these modifications, data from the 2004 election appears to have been altered," Metcalfe wrote in his letter, dated Thursday.

In addition, the Democratic party's review showed 293 manual entries were made to the file in 2004 between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2. Manual entries are typically made when ballots are damaged and can't be scanned.

By comparison, only 17 manual entries were made in that year's primary election, party spokeswoman Kay Brown said.

The Democratic party filed a public records request for the division to release the same data before the July changes were made. Party officials also want any documents and files identifying the people who made the manual entries or modifications to the data.

"If the division cannot produce the correct copy that we thought we were getting, not modified after the fact, we could very well go back to court," Brown said.

The Alaska Democratic Party originally requested the information last December, with party leaders saying there were numerous errors and discrepancies in the results that were reported in the 2004 elections. When the Division of Elections refused the request, the party filed a lawsuit to force its release.

The division released the central tabulator file last month, less than a week before a scheduled court hearing in the case. Elections officials said a security audit of the data showed it could be released without compromising this year's election.

Brewster was not available for comment on Thursday. Annette Kreitzer, chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, said time will be needed to answer the Democratic party's detailed questions while at the same time preparing for the Nov. 7 general election.

"The division will be happy to provide the answers the Democratic party is seeking," Kreitzer said. "I think Alaskans have confidence and have every reason to have confidence in the Division of Elections and their ability to protect the election system."

Discrepancies in the 2004 election included a district-by-district count that added up 292,267 votes cast for George Bush in the presidential election, while the statewide summary showed 190,889 votes.

District-by-district totals gave U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski 226,992 votes, while her official total was 149,446 votes.

And in half the state House Districts, more ballots were cast than there are registered voters, with 200 percent voter turnout in 16 of those districts, the Democrats say.

Brown said the Democratic party's analysis of the central tabulator file has not yet revealed the cause of those discrepancies.

"We are continuing to try to get to the bottom of that," Brown said.



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