Randall Kowalke was sworn in as the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly’s newest member Tuesday evening after a borough attorney denied a challenge of the final ballot count.


Kowalke’s opponent Doyle Holmes was ahead in the polls on election night, but lost after absentee and question ballots were counted. Kowalke won the District 7 seat by 33 votes, a victory Holmes challenged.


Holmes alleged ballots had been switched after the Talkeetna ballot counting machine stopped working, requiring the ballots to be collected in a sealed bag and later counted by another machine. After the polls closed, the Houston clerk was dispatched to retrieve the ballot bag and bring it borough clerk and deputy clerk for counting, as the election official responsible for submitting the ballots to borough officials was tired and worried about driving safely at night. She waited alone for the Houston clerk for roughly 90 minutes.


Holmes claimed the fact the election official and the Houston clerk were each alone with the ballots was the basis for contesting the election results. Holmes claimed the Talkeetna ballots were supposedly “skewed dramatically” in Kowalke’s favor — 73 percent to 27 percent compared to the preliminary ballot count of 54.8 percent to 45.2 percent in Holmes’ favor on election night.


Mat-Su Borough Attorney Nicholas Spiropoulos denied that challenge, issuing a 53-page report outlining the steps taken by election officials to ensure the integrity of the ballots submitted to the borough for counting. He also noted that while their actions may have been a deviation from Mat-Su Borough codes, it was not significant and did not “inject bias into the vote.”


Kowalke will be seated as an Assembly member on Monday, according to a statement from Mat-Su officials. Holmes has 10 days to seek judicial review of the decision.


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