Kristie Smithers

Kristie Smithers

Early voting for the cities of Palmer, Houston and Wasilla begin Sept. 20. Without an acting city clerk, Palmer has hired veteran clerk Kristie Smithers to run the elections this year.

“I was the city clerk of Wasilla for 18 years and then before that, I worked for the Mat-Su Borough as deputy clerk and so I have about 59 elections underneath my belt and I’m pretty familiar with it. We’ve done lots of special meetings, initiatives, referendums, and recall elections. I have seen pretty much everything that could happen with elections,” said Smithers.

Smithers praised the work of interim clerk Jeanette Sinn and Nichole Degner in assisting her with election preparation. On Tuesday, Smithers detailed the entire voting process from the summer candidate filings through the election certifications in October. The city of Palmer’s two voting precincts will both be at the Mat-Su Borough Dorothy Swanda Jones building with one in the back of the Assembly chambers and the other in the Borough Gym. Smithers detailed the five separate types of ballots that can be cast by absentee, early voting, questioned ballots, special needs ballots and personal representative voting.

“We also have questioned ballots and so those are the people that usually they’re just not on the register. Maybe it might be somebody that they think they live in the city and they don’t, they’re going to vote a questioned ballot and maybe they don’t have any ID,” said Smithers. “Every now and then there might be somebody that questions another person’s eligibility. In all of my years of doing elections I’ve had that one time and that was at the Mat-Su Borough so it was a long time ago.”

Smithers noted that all canvass board members, poll workers and election officials receive proper training and take an oath prior to receiving any ballots. A master list is kept with voters who cast early, questioned and special needs ballots that does not include voters who cast in-person ballots on election day. After the ballots are cast and counted by a canvass board, the canvass certificate is signed by each member. Poll watchers are permitted to view the process.

“We keep each type alphabetized when we get them back. Everything is always secure,” said Smithers. “We always review those envelopes to make sure that they have the signatures, witnesses, whatever they need on them so absentee by mail they request the ballot, we send it to them, they return it to us. They can do it in the drop box by mail or even on election night up until 8 o’clock they can turn it in at the polling place.”

Smithers stressed that processes are secure and locks are in place to ensure elections are fairly run and not tampered with. On Sept. 2, Smithers and clerk staff from Palmer, Wasilla and the Borough participated in a review board at Wasilla City Hall to test voting equipment. Since 1998, the state of Alaska has used Dominion voting machines, and the city of Palmer does not transmit results through phone lines.

“They have been very consistent, both units, both types of units have been very consistent over the years by all of the municipalities using the same equipment,” said Smithers. “There has not been any contest that I know of of the equipment either for accu vote units or the [Image Cast Precinct]. If there were to be questions about that, there is a process for a contest of election in our code and so that’s what someone would follow if there was a question or they felt that there was an irregularity that we did not catch.”

Smithers said that some cities have their clerk staff program the ICP machines, which is a process Palmer does not employ. Smithers said that she believes it to be a valid check to have someone outside city staff to program the voting machines.

“It went really smoothly, especially for us. We had five machines that we tested,” said Smithers. “Always, always, always in the clerk’s office everything is always secure. It’s locked and we continue to prepare for the canvass board.”

Alaska’s Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer also addressed dominion voting equipment during an interview with Radio Free Palmer at the Alaska State Fair.

“We’ve had their equipment and haven’t had any problems. Now we did get some new dominion machines. We went out to a competitive bid. We had three different vendors, Dominion was the lowest bid and most states use Dominion and again having a history with them, we felt pretty good with them and their equipment, yeah. You know I think there was some misinformation on a national basis about the equipment but fortunately here in Alaska we use paper ballots and we did a statewide hand count on ballot #2 and it pretty much matched what the machine was,” said Meyer. “I do have faith and trust in this last election, like I said we did so many hand counts that the machine is working fine, the Dominion machine.”

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