District 40 recount: Eight votes apart




Dean Westlake, right, with Mark Begich

The Division of Elections has released its recount of the 2016 Primary election in District 40. A four-vote lead by Dean Westlake of Kotzebue has stretched into a eight-vote lead. Westlake has 825 votes to Rep. Ben Nageak’s 817.

Nageak has hired Tim McKeever, an Anchorage lawyer who specializes in election law, to represent him in a legal challenge to the process.

Tuckerman Babcock, the chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, has followed the election closely with the interest of a man who started his political career as a clerk in the Division of Elections.

“The bottom line is you cannot recount corrupted ballots, or you can recount them all you want but that doesn’t mean you will know who won the race,” Babcock said.

Rep. Ben Nageak

Voters in Shungnak and Kobuk were given two ballots, both the Republican one and the Democratic one, while in five other precincts, Republicans were not allowed to vote the “open” ballot containing Alaska Independence Party, Democrats and Libertarians.

In Buckland, there were an extraordinary number of “personal representative” ballots, where people vote for each other by proxy. In Newtok, ballots were cast in the open, within view of others.

“The only reasonable thing to do is to hold another election,” Babcock said. “We’re sorry it is this way, but they did a lousy job, and there’s no way to know who won the race.”

Election observers found numerous irregularities that could have swung the close election one way or another. Allegations of violations of the Voting Rights Act are also under review by third parties interested in clean elections.

The most recent count posted by the Division of Elections: