Misprinted absentee ballot envelopes prompt Ketchikan officials to ask residents to double-check addresses

I voted sticker
Secrecy folders for ballots and “I Voted” stickers at a polling place in the State Office Building for early and absentee voting, Aug. 15, 2016. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Registered voters with absentee ballots should double-check that their voting materials are for the correct community. That’s after Ketchikan election officials say more than a dozen registered voters were mailed absentee ballot envelopes with the wrong return address. Ketchikan Gateway Borough Clerk Kacie Paxton says between 15 and 25 voters likely got return envelopes that were printed for Palmer or Wasilla voters.

“We mailed out our first batch of by-mail ballots on Friday, and on Saturday, I learned that a voter had received a by mail packet with an incorrect return envelope,” Paxton said in a phone interview Monday.

Paxton says the borough’s longtime contracted printer for election materials — Homer-based Print Works — was dealing with large orders from several municipalities, including Ketchikan and the Mat-Su communities.

“It sounds like it was in that process of folding these envelopes and sorting them and placing them in the boxes for the various different municipalities and it was in that process where it occurred. And a number of envelopes that were printed for the city of Wasilla and city of Palmer were placed into the box, coming to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough,” Paxton said.

Paxton says the borough’s spot check of the 1,000 absentee ballot packets didn’t pick up the mistake.

In a statement, Print Works owner Kevin Fraley apologized for the error and offered to pay to fix it. He says the company is taking precautions to ensure it can’t happen again and he regrets the oversight, saying that an error that undermines confidence in elections is the last thing Alaskans need.

Ketchikan’s clerk’s office encourages all absentee voters to double-check the return address on the back of their absentee ballot and ensure the address is in Ketchikan. Paxton says she’s also contacted officials in Palmer and Wasilla about the misprint.

For several reasons,” Paxton said. “One, because all of these envelopes were printed together, there’s a possibility that they could also have incorrect envelopes in their batches. So we wanted to make them aware. And then also to make them aware that some of our voters could have a return address that could be returned to them.

“So we’ll be in constant contact with both the voters and the clerks in Palmer and Wasilla to make sure that we account for every ballot, we’ll be reaching out to these voters until we receive their ballot to make sure that we that we help them to be able to vote, send it in, and that we get them in time,” Paxton continued.

Paxton says her office has reached out to all 94 residents who were in that first batch of absentee ballots. For those who got incorrectly-addressed envelopes, she’s offering to pick up completed absentee ballots within city limits.

Voters outside Ketchikan city limits can either drop them off at the borough’s office building at 1900 First Ave. or call to request a new envelope.

It’s not the first printing error that’s affected mail-in voting this election cycle. Earlier this year, the Alaska Republican Party sent absentee ballot applications with the wrong names to about 3,500 registered voters.

Alaska GOP Chair Glenn Clary blamed a mail-merge error by a contracted printer for the mishap. Clary said Monday that the GOP uses a different printer than the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

Ketchikan residents with questions about absentee voting or the printing error can contact the borough clerk’s office at 228-6605. Voters can request an absentee ballot for the October 6 municipal elections through Tuesday, Sept. 29.

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