Write-in list draws little interest among Juneau voters

Posted: Wednesday, November 03, 2010

After weeks of legal and political battles over having a list of official write-in candidates available at polling places, when Juneau voters finally arrived at the polls on election day there was little interest in the controversial list.

Empire staff spread out among polling the city's polling places, but heard few voters asking to view the write-in list, and fewer still using it as a voting aid.

"We had about three people who wanted to see the write-ins, just to see who all was on it," said Mary Lou Meiners, an elections worker at downtown's Holy Trinity Church polling place.

Those people did not appear to need the assistance of the list, however.

"They already had their minds made up," she said.

In some cases, people asked to see the list, but waited until after they finished voting to do so.

Southeast regional elections supervisor Alyce Houston said there were a few requests for the list, but no problems were noted.

"I think there have been a few people testing the system," she said.

In Alaska, write-in candidates must register with the state Division of Elections five days before the election.

Because the most active write-in candidate, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, has a name that is potentially difficult to spell, having that list available at the polls to confirm the spelling was seen as a benefit to her campaign.

Her two main on-the-ballot opponents, Republican Joe Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams, disputed the legality of the list, which was finally approved by the Alaska Supreme Court. The court allowed the list to be made available to voters but not be taken into the voting booth.

Then, Anchorage talk radio host Dan Fagan, a Miller supporter, urged listeners to file to run as write-ins in order to make Murkowski's name more difficult to pick out. After that, the write-in list swelled to multiple pages.

"There didn't seem to be much in interest in the list," said Kate Troll, Juneau campaign manager for McAdams. The Democratic campaign had poll watchers in precincts throughout town, but saw no irregularities and few request for the list, she said.

Despite the potential for controversy at the polls on election day, Empire reporters reported seeing few problems.

In a few cases people with visible campaign buttons or signs too-close to the polls were asked to cover them or take them down. All did so, poll worker said.

In one case an Empire reporter was told they couldn't observe the voting at the Nugget Mall polling place.

That was in error, Houston said, likely due to a miscommunication among elections staff. Political party poll watchers have to register and wear badges to be present at the polls, but the media is allowed to observe the elections process, she said.

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