Anchorage Superior Court Judge Josie Garton today reversed her ruling of Tuesday, when she had dismissed a claim by Rep. Lance Pruitt that a last-minute change of polling places in his district had an impact on election results.
In today’s surprise ruling, Garton stayed her previous dismissal. Evidently, after Tuesday’s testimony, the judge believes that there’s enough smoke, and there may very well be fire.
Pruitt lost by 11 votes to Liz Snyder when the election was certified. But the polling place that has always been strong for him was moved with no notice, and that worked against Pruitt.
On Tuesday, his lawyer Stacey Stone showed the court that the last-minute change of voting venue confused voters and likely depressed the turnout on Election Day.
Stone had brought political analyst and election expert Randy Ruedrich, a Republican campaign volunteer, to explain how a drop in at least 57 votes in the district was enough to have given Snyder the win.
That’s because Snyder and the Democrats did not turn out at the polls on Election Day. Their strategy all along was to get everyone on their side of the political aisle to vote absentee.
Today, when called to the witness stand, Dr. Snyder fudged the truth, telling the court that she didn’t even know the polling place had been moved until she learned of the lawsuit by Pruitt.
But lawyer Stone then presented the court an exhibit that showed that on Nov. 3 — Election Day — Snyder had written on Facebook that the polling places were wrong at the Division of Elections website.
When shown the exhibit, Snyder said that one of her campaign staff must have posted it, not her. She sought to put distance between herself and her Facebook page, disavowing the words under her image.
Lawyer Stone also quickly took apart the state’s key witness, an economist at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska.
On behalf of the State, Democrat Ralph Townsend proceeded to explain why he thought Ruedrich’s analysis of Tuesday was wrong.
Stone quickly neutered his testimony, as he admitted he had no experience analyzing elections or performing election data analysis. He did, however, take a few political science classes as an undergraduate, he offered. Townsend is a fisheries expert.
Townsend was discredited as a witness after, at the beginning of his testimony, he said he volunteered to be an expert witness, only to later admit to the court that he had been recruited to testify by Liz Snyder’s lawyer, Jennifer Alexander who also slipped him the Ruedrich written analysis to take a look at. It was not yet a public record.
Another one of the Snyder witness was dismissed by the judge. Snyder’s proposed witness was going to walk the court through how to use the “Way-back Machine” on the internet. The judge ruled the man was not an appropriate witness. The Wayback Machine is a simple internet archive of websites.
No more witnesses were called by the Snyder-State side of the election case today. Closing arguments, due Thursday, will be done in writing.
Judge Garton could rule or proceed to a “fact and findings” for the Supreme Court to take up the matter.