This March 2020 photo shows Juneau's City Hall. On Tuesday, the canvass review board certified the 2021 municipal election results. The final results did not reflect any significant changes over the preliminary results that were released last Friday. (Peter Segall /Juneau Empire File)

City officials certify election

Final count closely mirrors preliminary numbers

After months of campaigning, weeks of voting and days of counting, City and Borough of Juneau election officials certified the winners of the 2021 municipal election.

According to a news release from City Clerk Beth McEwen, the Canvass Review Board certified the election late Tuesday afternoon.

The winners from the school board race, including incumbent Elizabeth “Ebett” Siddon, Amber Frommherz and write-in candidate Will Muldoon were sworn in at Tuesday evening’s meeting.

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On Monday, Oct. 25, newly elected City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member Barbara ‘Wáahlaal Gíidaak Blake will be sworn in along with Mayor Beth Weldon and Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale. Weldon and Hale were both reelected to serve second terms.

Blake will replace deputy mayor and longtime CBJ Assembly member Loren Jones, who could not seek another term due to term limits.

About the results

The final results didn’t reflect any significant changes compared to those released late Friday when all ballots that had been approved for counting were tallied.

Earlier vote tallies were issued on Oct. 8 and 11. The election took place on Oct. 5.

Overall voter turnout was 30.8%. That’s about 12% lower than last year when during the city’s first vote-by-mail election, voters sent back nearly 12,000 ballots, representing a turnout of about 43% —the largest voter turnout since 2000.

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According to McEwen, the vote-counting process went well overall.

“It took a number of days to go through 8,517 ballots,” she said in a Wednesday morning phone interview. She noted that ballots were sent to Anchorage in four batches.

Juneau’s ballots are counted in Anchorage because Juneau does not have the equipment needed to count votes locally. However, a new ballot-counting center is in the works and should be ready for next year’s election.

McEwen described a labor-intensive process that involves verifying the signature and voter identification on each ballot, processing ballots through a scanning device, and manually reviewing any ballot with an anomaly—such as a write-in candidate.

“It’s very secure, very labor-intensive,” she said, adding that every ballot was touched six or seven times by the counting team.

“It’s a pretty reliable process with lots of check-ins,” she said.

McEwen said those with questions about the process could call her office at (907) 586-5278.

Uncounted ballots

Despite efforts to count all the ballots cast, McEwen said that 652 ballots could not be counted.

Of the uncounted ballots, McEwen said that 357 ballots did not have a postmark and arrived at City Hall after election day via the U.S. Mail.

“That’s a pretty significant number of voters whose votes will not count,” McEwen said. “The post office said that all ballots would be postmarked, and it wasn’t the case. We followed all the rules, but they did not follow their rules which disenfranchised 357 voters.”

McEwen said will discuss the situation with the postmaster.

“I left messages for the postmaster and hope to resolve that issue in advance of additional elections,” McEwen said.

The Empire was unable to reach the postmaster on Wednesday.

McEwen said that another 295 votes could not be counted because they were not signed, the signature did not match the one on file and the cure letter did not solicit a response from the voter. In some cases, ballots were rejected because the voter was no longer registered to vote in Juneau.

McEwen said the canvass review board spent a whole day reviewing all the ballots in question to ensure that none were disregarded without cause.

“We made sure that every vote we could possibly count would be counted,” she said.

Based on the Empire’s review of election results, the uncounted ballots would not have affected the outcome of any race. However, it could have changed the placement of some of the school board candidates with overall low vote totals.

Final results-at-a-glance

Mayor

Beth Weldon: 6,863 votes (Weldon ran unopposed)

Write-in: 623 (no write-in candidates were certified)

Extend 3% sales tax

Yes: 6,580

No: 1,786

Assembly District 1

Barbara ‘Wáahlaal Gíidaak Blake: 4,729

Paul Kelly: 2,066

Troy Wuyts-Smith: 859

Write-in: 230 (no write-in candidates were certified)

Assembly District 2

Michelle Bonnet Hale: 5,541

Kelly Fishler: 2,438

Write-in: 64 (no write-in candidates were certified)

School Board (Three open seats)

Elizabeth (Ebett) Siddon: 5,781

Amber Frommherz: 5,370

Will Muldoon: 2,919

Aaron Spratt: 2.003

Ibn Bailey: 1,740

Thom Buzard: 1,583

Wiljordon V. Sangster: 1,150

Kyle Scholl: 358

Other, non-certified write-ins: 237

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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