Westlake once again District 40 race winner following Alaska Supreme Court decision
Last updated at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 12
An Alaska Supreme Court ruling issued Wednesday overturned a lower court’s decision to throw out some ballots in the disputed House District 40 race in the primary election, making Dean Westlake once again the winner.
The final tally of ballots from the North Slope district put Westlake ahead of his opponent, Rep. Ben Nageak, by just eight votes. After the election results were certified in September, Nageak filed a lawsuit asking for either a new election or for some of the District 40 ballots to be thrown out in an attempt to correct a number of election day mistakes, including voters receiving both ballots in the village of Shungnak.
The superior court judge residing over the case ruled that some of the votes for each candidate should be thrown out, taking away Westlake’s lead and making Nageak the district’s winner.
The Supreme Court ruling reversed the superior court’s decision, reinstating the original certification by the Division of Elections. There is no higher court in Alaska, meaning Nageak has no recourse to appeal the decision, Westlake’s attorney, Tom Amodio, said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Supreme Court Justice Daniel E. Winfree was the only justice to dissent.
“In my view the superior court correctly determined that – as to the primary election in the Shungnak precinct – the Division of Elections committed malconduct that could have affected the election result between Mr. Nageak and Mr. Westlake,” he wrote in the ruling. “Accordingly I would declare the election void and direct the Division of Elections to hold a new election.”
“The primary task of the Division of Elections is to run fair, impartial, and efficient elections in which every qualified voter is permitted to cast a ballot and know that their vote will count,” division director Josie Bahnke said in a statement in response to the decision. “The Division is please that the Supreme Court agreed that the election result as certified by the Division should stand. Absentee ballots will go out tomorrow.”
Attempts to contact Nageak’s attorney, Stacey Stone, were not immediately successful.
Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Craig Stowers says the court will attempt to issue a decision on the disputed state House race in northern Alaska by Friday.
The state’s high court on Wednesday heard an appeal after a state judge last week overturned the primary election results and ordered the state certify incumbent Rep. Benjamin Nageak of Barrow the winner over his Democratic primary challenger Dean Westlake.
Nageak lost the election by eight votes and challenged, claiming election workers made egregious errors in the election.
In overturning the election last week, a state judge deducted 12 votes from Westlake and two from Nageak and ordered the Division of Elections to certify Nageak as the winner.
The state says the court should overturn the lower court, which would leave Westlake as the winner. Nageak’s attorney wants the Supreme Court to uphold the lower court.
The Alaska Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear arguments in a disputed election for the state House of Representatives.
Democratic challenger Dean Westlake beat incumbent Rep. Benjamin Nageak of Barrow by eight votes in the August primary. Nageak challenged the election and last week, state Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi founds errors in how the state conducted the election.
Guidi deducted 12 votes from Westlake and two from Nageak and ordered the Division of Elections to certify Nageak as the winner, prompting the state’s appeal.
The state is seeking the court to uphold the original results showing Westlake as the winner. If that doesn’t happen, it asked that the Guidi’s verdict be overturned and suggested other remedies.
Those include having the court order a special election, putting both men’s names on the general election ballot or voiding the election and allow the state Democratic party to fill the vacancy.
There are no Republicans on the ballot.
AP’s Mark Theissen and KTVA 11’s Liz Raines contributed to this report.
The post Westlake once again District 40 race winner following Alaska Supreme Court decision appeared first on KTVA 11.