North Slope lawmaker files lawsuits over illegal procedures in primary election
Last updated at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16
Rep. Benjamin Nageak filed two lawsuits against Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Division of Elections director Josie Bahnke Friday over illegal procedures followed in the House District 40 primary election race.
On Monday, the results of a recount Nageak requested for the race showed Nageak was defeated by opponent Dean Westlake by eight votes. Prior to the recount, official results determined there was a margin of four votes between the two candidates.
“These lawsuits ask the courts to review the conduct of the election so the true intent of the voters of District 40 can be established,” said a press release from Stacey Stone, one of the lawyers representing Nageak in the case. “There were significant mistakes and violations of the law in the conduct of the election and review by the courts is needed to determine which votes should be counted and the true results of the election.”
The lawsuits refer to mistakes made at multiple precincts in District 40 during the election, which lawmakers said violated state law. The lawsuits claim there were so many errors on primary election day that it likely changed the results.
“Evidence collected since the election establishes that voters in more than one precinct were illegally given both the Republican ballot and the Democrat ballot in violation of the law,” Stone wrote. “At least one voter was denied the ballot he requested and other voters were either not given the ballot they requested or told that they must vote a questioned ballot.”
The lawsuits also claim:
- In Shungnak, voters got both Republican and Democrat ballots, which is against Alaska statute.
- In Point Lay, there was only one election worker present during voting, when state statutes require two.
- In Browerville, registered Republicans were required to vote questioned ballots if they asked to vote on the Democrat ballot.
- In Bettles, a voter who was identified as a Republican by an election worker was not given a choice of ballots.
- In Kivalina, seven voters voted on both Republican and Democrat ballots, but required to cast questioned ballots.
- In Nome, workers lost four absentee ballots, and the Division of Elections allegedly told them to randomly select four questioned ballots and count them as absentee.
The lawsuits go on to accuse election workers of failing to properly fill out paperwork, returning special needs ballots six days late and misplacing and losing ballots. Additionally, they say the number of errors puts the integrity of the election in question.
One of the lawsuits, an appeal of the recount, was filed in the Alaska Supreme Court. The other challenges the conduct of the election and was filed in Superior Court. It asks the court to review the conduct of the election or have a new one.
Stone said she expects the courts will consider the matters on an expedited basis.
Nageak could not be immediately reached for comment Friday. Mallott’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but Bahnke emailed a statement to KTVA in response to the lawsuits:
“At this point, we are examining the court documents with the Department of Law and will respond accordingly. I stand by the election certification and the decisions made in that process with the State Review Board. Ultimately, we will respect whatever decision is made by the courts. In the meantime, it is full speed ahead on preparing for the General Election and ensuring an open and transparent elections process.”
The two lawsuits come on the same day as three lawmakers, past and present, filed a suit against the Permanent Fund Corporation over Gov. Bill Walker’s cut to Permanent Fund Dividend checks next month.
KTVA 11’s Emily Carlson contributed to this report.
The post North Slope lawmaker files lawsuits over illegal procedures in primary election appeared first on KTVA 11.