Lawyer for North Slope incumbent searches for voting irregularites during primary
A committee working to re-elect Ben Nageak, D-Barrow, to the Alaska Legislature has hired a lawyer to look into possible voting irregularities during this month’s primary election.
Attorney Timothy McKeever says he will look for any evidence that people may have been discouraged from voting, given the wrong ballots or otherwise had a negative or troubled experience with the voting process.
If such evidence turns up, McKeever said it’s possible there will be a request for a recount or a lawsuit could be filed to contest the outcome.
Nageak’s challenger for the Democratic seat, Dean Westlake, is ahead by 21 votes. But the Alaska GOP said there is no way the Division of Elections can certify the election because in the village of Shungak every registered Democrat was given a Democratic and a Republican ballot and allowed to cast both, against party rules.
The Division of Elections issued a press release on Wednesday saying officials are aware of “a number of issues, both documented and rumored” that arose on during the primary.
“It takes those issues seriously. All documented issues have either been addressed or are currently under review by the State Review Board, which is hard at work this week in Juneau and scheduled to certify the election by September 2, 2016,” according to the news release.
In the Nageak-Westlake race in House District 40, the division said a poll worker at the Shungnak precinct mistakenly gave all in-person voters both the combined Democratic-Libertarian-Alaskan Independence ballot and the Republican Primary ballot. All voters voted both ballots, which could potentially alter the outcome of the race, according to the division.
Even so, it should be noted that under party rules, the Alaska Democratic Party allows any qualified voter to vote in their primary, so anyone who voted was legally entitled to do so under party rules, according to the press release. A candidate's name appears on only one ballot, not multiple ballots, so no voter was able to cast more than one vote for any individual candidate in Shungnak, according to the division.
Under state law, certification of the election result is a necessary before there can be any request for a recount or other legal challenge.
The head of the Alaska Republican Party is warning state elections officials to not certify the results of a North Slope race for state House of Representatives.
In a press release Tuesday evening, the state GOP says problems with the voting in the race between candidate Dean Westlake and incumbent Representative Ben Nageak make it impossible to certify the race.
Nageak lost to Westlake by 21 votes.
Alaska Republican Party chair Tuckerman Babcock said, “In Shungnak, every registered Democrat was illegally given a Republican ballot and they were allowed to cast that ballot.”
"There is simply no way for you to determine the actual, legal vote in the Democrat State House primary in District 40," Babcock said.
The party is calling for a new election..
Nageak is a Democrat but caucuses with the Republican-led House majority.