Fairbanks voter group seeks increased access to ballot process

As we get closer to learning the final results of this year's municipal election, some borough residents are hoping to make the process more transparent.
Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 6:02 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - At the Shoppers Forum Mall, Monday, the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB) Canvass Board worked to process 1,586 absentee and questioned ballots for the 2022 municipal election.

Appointed by the borough assembly, this team of seven determines whether these ballots meet the requirements to be counted. Ballots are then organized into borough, City of Fairbanks and City of North Pole ballots.

The borough has used this method for decades. This year, however, has seen increased scrutiny as some residents asked to get closer to the process.

According to Borough Clerk April Trickey, “We had a group of concerned voters that wanted to basically be able to sit at the table with the canvass board.”

Barbara Haney, Candidate for FNSB Assembly seat I, said, “I do think there should be the ability for a person from each campaign, or that has been trained, to watch the process and ensure some kind of integrity.”

This oversight, Haney said, would protect election workers from members of the community who may not trust the election results. “People will sit there and say ‘Aw, you guys are all corrupt,’ or whatever, and it’s like ‘No, we had external people watching the process,’” she said, adding, “It would give the public an opportunity to have some assurance of voting integrity.”

The ballot processing is open to the public. However, on Monday, October 10, a barrier marked how close observers can get. “We couldn’t see what they were doing or anything, so it’s not meaningful access,” Haney said.

While state elections allow witnesses to sit with the canvassers and challenge ballots, no such system exists in the borough, according to Trickey. “I don’t have anything in code that allows for a watcher, what someone might call a watcher, to watch the actual count that gives them the ability to look at confidential information which is on the envelopes,” she said.

This information might include a voter’s date of birth, drivers license number, signature, and the last four digits of their social security number. “You as a voter, when you come to fill out that form, it specifically states, there’s a star that says down there that this information is considered confidential and is not given out to the general public.”

The canvass board, on the other hand, can view that information.

Haney says if she’s elected to the borough assembly, she would work to create a process to include watchers for the counting process, and if not, she may still try to use the referendum process to increase observer access.

Mail-in ballots can still be collected until October 11 if they were postmarked on or before election day.

Absentee and questioned ballots are scheduled to be tallied and added to the results on Tuesday, October 11 at 2:00 p.m. at the Mona Lisa Drexler Assembly Chambers.