Voter fraud suspected in District 40 - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, September 19, 2021
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Voter fraud suspected in District 40

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(This story has been updated at the end to reflect a working theory on how the numbers in Shungnak might be explained.)

On election night, all results in Alaska were slow to be posted. But the results from District 40 were the slowest to arrive. In fact, they never did arrive that night after the polls closed at 8 pm. This was the first time since pre-internet days that election observers can remember such delays.

Election watchers monitoring the postings by the Division of Elections were scanning the website for updates, to no avail.

There were precincts missing and it was too close to call. At one point Ben Nageak was up by 30 votes, and then he was down by just 5.

(See update on other questionable results.)

The three villages missing were Shungnak, Kaktovik, and Point Hope.

Because it’s the North Slope, one can expect things to be a bit slower. But 22 hours late in reporting results from a village? That’s dog-sled speed. And this was a summer day.


Dean Westlake / Division of Elections file photo

Dean Westlake / Division of Elections file photo

What is unusual about the Shungnak reporting is that it came in well after all the other results were posted, and the votes went 48 for Dean Westlake, and 2 for Ben Nageak.

Westlake has been heavily favored by the Alaska Democratic Party over their incumbent Nageak, also a Democrat.  Vast sums of money, including a big fundraiser by the Alaska Governor Bill Walker’s surrogate Robin Brena, have poured into the Westlake race.

The governor wants to get rid of Nageak, because he caucuses with the bipartisan majority that the governor does not control.


Even more unusual is that the voter turnout in Shungnak was nearly 63 percent, with the turnout for Democrats nearly 30 percent, making it either the most civic-minded community in Alaska…or perhaps there’s another explanation.

Shungnak has 159 registered voters, with 46 of them registered Democrats, 17 registered Republicans, and the rest fall into the “variety pack” categories. Fully 100 Shungnak voters actually cast a ballot.

Rep. Ben Nageak

Rep. Ben Nageak

It took 22 hours for the Shungnak results to be reported, leading observers to wonder if someone had withheld the ballots until all the others were reported.

As of this writing, Rep. Ben Nageak is trailing behind challenger Dean Westlake, with just five votes separating them. Districtwide, Westlake has 765 votes to Nageak’s 760 for the District 40 House seat.

We’re not ready to call this race, but if there was ever an example of how every vote counts, this is it. It also may be an example of voter fraud.


Yesterday, Must Read Alaska received reports that for registered Republicans in District 40, voting was not a civic breeze. They tell us that election workers told them that if they wanted to vote the Democrats’ ballot, where Westlake and Nageak faced off, their ballot would be put into the “questioned ballot” stack.

Our sources are reporting that there are at least 40 of these questioned ballots in Barrow.

All of this raises questions about ballot custody, ballot security, and a possibly rigged election.

As for the other two villages that reported late, they are:

Kaktovik, where of the 33 votes, 4 went to Dean Westlake and 29 went to Benjamin Nageak. (The result is not surprising because this is Nageak’s hometown.)

Point Hope, where of the 19 votes, 6 went to Westlake and 13 went to Nageak.

Here’s a snapshot of the District 40 results:

Final results for District 40.

Final results for District 40.


An analysis of voter history in Shungnak shows that they know how to turn out the vote.

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If 100 actually people voted, we see that 50 voters in Shungnak picked the Republican ballot, and 50 picked the Democratic ballot, according to the precinct results. In every other village in that region, the breakdown was much more weighted toward the Democratic ballot.

With a total of 100 cards cast, it appears that the election officials allowed 50 voters to vote two ballots — both the Democratic and Republican ballots.

For example, they could vote for Lisa Murkowski for Senate on one ballot, and Cean Stevens on the other. But only one of those ballots had the Westlake-Nageak matchup on it, which is why there are only 50 votes recorded for that race.

Not only does Shungnak have an extraordinarily high turnout, but the numbers simply don’t add up.

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Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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