State sends out wrong voter pamphlets to some districts

Rush is on to reprint, mail 132,500 correct regional versions

Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2002

Regionalized election pamphlets began arriving in voters' mailboxes last week, but about 40 percent of the households initially will receive the wrong version because of an error by the state Division of Elections.

For more Juneau Empire coverage of the November 5 general election, please visit the Juneau Empire Elections Guide.

The candidates for House and Senate races are incorrect in the mismailed pamphlets. The error occurred when workers neglected to change a computer table to reflect the new election district numbers after redistricting.

Voters in Eagle River, for instance, got pamphlets with House and Senate candidates for the Interior, Valdez, and part of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Voters in Kodiak, in old District 6, received pamphlets intended for the new District 6, which covers part of the Interior.

The rest of the press run of 332,000 went to the right places. Four regional editions of the pamphlet were produced for the election. Information for the statewide races and ballot propositions is identical in all four.

The Oregon printing company that prepared the booklets was rushing to produce 132,500 new ones, officials said Friday, and they're due to be mailed from Anchorage this week.

Election officials found out about the mistake Thursday afternoon, and new booklets were on the presses by 6 p.m., said Virginia Breeze of the elections division.

"It's going to cost $65,000 for printing and shipping," Breeze said. "Postage will run between $25,000 and $30,000." The money will come from the division's redistricting budget.

Affected were 15 of the 40 legislative districts, including all the districts in the Fairbanks area, some in Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula, and Kodiak.

Separate pamphlets, some as large as 200 pages, were created for four regions. Political candidates must pay between $100 and $350 to appear on the pamphlet's pages, depending on the seat sought.

The pamphlets were printed at 50 cents a copy and it cost about $20,000 to barge them from Oregon, said Elections Director Janet Kowalski, who went to Oregon on Friday to check on the re-printing.

"It's really unfortunate we made a mistake," Kowalski said. "Hindsight is 20-20. I take full responsibility."

Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, who supervises the elections division and who is the Democratic nominee for governor, said "the good news is that nothing was dropped that is fundamental to the balloting process. As soon as we found out about this, we decided we had to fix it, and that's what we're doing."

New versions should start arriving late next week, more than a week ahead of the election. Meanwhile, voters can check the division's Web site for the candidate data or get a copy of the right pamphlet at libraries or election offices.

Randy Ruedrich, chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska, told reporters at a press conference Friday the mismailings "probably are a coincidence." Ruedrich said the blame ultimately lies with Ulmer.

"I'm not implying anything, but most of the areas affected are historically Republican," said Ruedrich.

"For anybody to assert that this was done on purpose is just amazing," Ulmer said.

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