ANCHORAGE (KTUU) UPDATE:
The US Postal Inspection Service is investigating an apparent mail theft involving dozens of ballot packages for Anchorage’s first ever vote-by-mail election.
Community members found 46 ballot packages, as well as several other pieces of mail, lying in a snow bank in Chugiak late Friday afternoon. Neighbors say the mail was taken from a set of mailboxes near McManus Drive and Oberg Road.
The wet, damaged ballots were taken to the Chugiak Post office, where authorities were notified. Investigators say this appears to be a typical mail theft case, not an attempt to interfere with the election.
“Nothing that we have seen so far links this to some big crew, nor do we think this has anything to do with the ballots themselves,” said Jacob Gholson, a postal inspector team leader for Alaska.
“The ballots were delivered so the postal service did get that mail out as they were supposed to. Unfortunately there are people out there that don’t really want to operate within the law and decided to try to go steal mail from mailboxes.”
Election officials don’t believe any ballots are unaccounted for, and the ballots that were found have had their bar codes voided. New ballot packages are being sent to the affected voters.
“We know that nefarious activity takes place across the municipality, not limited to mail theft and because this is Anchorage’s first vote by mail election we knew that the threat is there so we do have procedures in place to mitigate any kind of election fraud,” said Carolyn Hall with Vote By Mail.
“We commend the citizens who came across that mail and did the right thing,” she added. “They saw that ballot packages were likely tampered with and then they made sure they reported it to the post office and then to us. We really appreciate that, that’s really important to the integrity of the election.”
Anyone with information on the mail theft can contact the US Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455.
Late Friday evening, a news release from the municipal clerk's office said there were reports of stolen Vote by Mail ballot packages from the Chugiak area.
The reported theft was near Whispering Birch Drive, Oberg Road and Deer Park Drive.
The news release says that 46 ballot packages were turned in to the Chugiak Post Office after being found wet and damaged in the snow by community members.
The stolen ballot packages will be voided and new ballot packages will be issued to the voters, according to the release.
The April election will be the first time people in Anchorage will vote by mail.
If anyone witnessed this crime or if someone has evidence of the crime, they are urged to contact APD by calling Dispatch at 786-8900, referencing Case #18-502374.