Senate State Affairs hearing set on primary election

Sen. Bill Stoltze
Sen. Bill Stoltze


Senate State Affairs Chairman Bill Stolze has scheduled a hearing on Aug. 29 to delve into the irregularities of the Aug. 16 primary election. The hearing will take place from 10 am to noon at the Anchorage Legislative Information Offices Auditorium.

Invited participants are Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott or his designee, and Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke. A Legislative Legal Services lawyer will be on hand to discuss past election case law.

The hearing was scheduled because of the widespread irregularities identified in the primary election, particularly in the village of Shungnak, where the village clerk has admitted to giving all voters two ballots, rather than the legally allowed one ballot.

The clerk told KTVA news that she closed the polls at 9 pm, which is an hour later than what is legally mandated.

The results in Shungnak matter because the two who are contesting the House Seat for District 40, Dean Westlake and Rep. Ben Nageak, are now just three votes apart. That district went heavily for Westlake.

The lieutenant governor is on record saying the Shungnak results are not a problem:

“The Alaska Division of Elections’ mission is straightforward — to ensure that every qualified voter has a meaningful opportunity to cast a ballot and have their vote counted. I take any suggestions of voting irregularities very seriously and the Division is in the process of reviewing ballots and precinct procedures. Until all the questioned and absentee ballots have been counted, no election result is final or will be certified. We also consider this to be a training issue and one that the Division will address meaningfully and promptly.

“With respect to the Shungnak precinct, the Division is aware of reports that the precinct workers gave voters both Republican and the combined Alaska Democratic Party, Alaska Libertarian Party and Alaskan Independence Party ballot. The Democratic Party allows any qualified voter to vote in their primary so anyone who voted in their primary was legally entitled to do so under party rules. Moreover, a candidate’s name appears on only one ballot, not multiple ballots, so no voter was able to cast more than one vote for any individual candidate.

“Ballots and voter registers are mailed to the Division headquarters in Juneau on the day following the election. Shungnak mailed the ballots and registers on Wednesday and they are currently in the custody of the United States Postal Service.

“On Monday, August 29, the hand count verification process will take place at Centennial Hall in Juneau. That same day, the bipartisan State Review Board will carefully audit election results and materials such as ballots and precinct registers. Certification of the primary election is slated for Friday, September 2.”