JUDGE ORDERS DIVISION OF ELECTIONS TO CERTIFY
Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi today declared Rep. Ben Nageak the winner in the House District 40 race and ordered the Division of Elections to certify the results.
That decision will most likely be challenged at the Alaska Supreme Court by a chastened Division of Elections and Dean Westlake, the man who sought Nageak’s seat, representing the North Slope and Northwest Arctic Borough.
Judge Guidi acknowledged that the confidence of the election system is an important value, and that integrity in elections is key to the health of the republic.
He said that most of the irregularities of the District 40 primary election were not a result of malconduct, but that what happened in Shungnak was of a serious and concerning nature. It was, in fact, malconduct.
In Shungnak, election workers knowingly gave every voter both the open ballot and the Republican ballot, and the judge ruled it was illegal to allow people to vote two ballots. Guidi found that Shungnak’s outcome actually changed the election results, where Dean Westlake had originally been awarded the district win by eight votes.
The judge found that the Division of Election offered training to the Shungnak election workers in preparation for the 2016 primary, but they did not participate, and there was no training followup by the Division of Elections.
Guidi said that election officials in Shungnak acted in reckless disregard of the law. Their trainer, their supervisor, and the Division share in the responsibility for their conduct, he said: They didn’t participate in training, they didn’t review materials sent to them, and they did not follow the instructions on the ballot choice poster and placards sent to them. Then they gave everyone two ballots to vote.
“This conduct cannot be characterized as an ‘honest mistake,’ said Guidi, “without robbing the term of all meaning and undermining the accountability of the elections.”
In the end, Guidi decided the best solution was to decrease Westlake’s votes by 11 and Nageak’s votes by 1 in the Shungak precinct, and to subtract one vote each in the Kivalina precinct, which had also seen irregularities. That came to 12 votes subtracted from Westlake and 2 from Nageak. The eight-vote win by Westlake was reversed.
“The Division of Elections is directed to retabulate the vote total in conformance with the decision expressed above and recertify the results…At the conclusion of its retabulation, the Division of Elections shall certify Mr. Nageak as the winner of the Democratic primary in H.D. 40,” the judge concluded.