Duplicate voters found in Alaska primary

Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2008

ANCHORAGE - An Alaska elections official said Wednesday that final results of the general election may not be released for up to 10 days following the discovery that more than two dozen people voted twice in the August primary.

Altogether 36 people - including one man who voted twice at the same precinct - cast duplicate ballots. But 10, including the precinct voter, were caught early before the election results were certified.

Most of the doubles involved were absentee ballots where voters also went to the polls Aug. 26.

As a result, absentee ballots will not be counted until after the Nov. 4 general election, when they are checked against voter rolls from election day, director Gail Fenumiai said.

The change in vote counting means Alaskans may not know for nearly two weeks the election outcome on tight congressional races against longtime Republican incumbents - including Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young - dogged by corruption scandals. Young won his primary race by only 304 votes, but Fenumiai said no races were affected by the double votes.

"It's really, really important to make sure that every voter has voted only once," Fenumiai said. "The division is taking extra steps to ensure that the duplicate voting is eliminated."

Elections officials have given the names of the people who voted twice to the criminal division of the state Department of Law for investigation.

Because the case is under investigation, officials are not releasing the names or party affiliations of the voters, said Rick Svobodny, a deputy attorney general in charge of the criminal division.

He said there appears to be no wide-scale conspiracy to weigh any races. The probe, however, will look at factors behind the duplicate voting, whether they were intentional or the result of forgetfulness or identity theft.

"We look at this as a serious matter," Svobodny said. "The guy who voted twice at the same precinct is going to have to come up with a darn good story."

Deliberate double voting is a felony under state law.

"The bottom line here is that people don't commit voter fraud," said McHugh Pierre, a spokesman for the state Republican party. "It undermines our democracy and the principles we live by. It's not OK."

The absentee-ballot issue came to light after elections officials cross-checked absentee votes with election-day precinct registers, Fenumiai said.

From now on, elections officials will hold off on counting absentee ballots until they can later be checked against the registry of people who voted at the polls. Previously, the state began counting absentee ballots up to a week before the election and those votes were tallied with ballots cast on election day.

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