With the Alaska Division of Elections closing in on certifying Dean Westlake’s win over Rep. Ben Nageak in the House District 40 democratic primary by Friday, Nageak and Alaska Republicans are sending signals the fight may have just begun.
The hiring of McKeever, a former chief of staff to Sen. Ted Stevens, shows that even though Nageak called Westlake this weekend to concede the election, he is not willing to end the fight just yet.
The Alaska Republican Party (AKGOP) also continues to fight to protect Nageak, who is a Democrat but also a member of the Republican House Majority. AKGOP Chairman Tuckerman Babcock, in this letter sent to Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke yesterday, stopped just short of threatening legal action if Nageak isn’t declared the winner:
Chairman Babcock sends letter to Elections director
Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock today sent a letter of caution to Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke regarding the uncertainty surrounding the voting in several parts of the state, but particularly in District 40. The letter is printed in its entirety here:
Dear Director Bahnke,
You have a momentous responsibility. I realize that despite your best efforts, with limited budgets and more than 400 precincts, the job of making sure everyone is trained and prepared to properly conduct an election can be daunting.
Your task and responsibility to review the legitimacy of the election is a very important one for all Alaskans.
Usually, your decisions are relatively straightforward. The Primary election of 2016, unfortunately, was subject to some critical, illegal, mistakes. These improprieties were made by numerous official precinct election clerks, but they were not your improper or illegal actions that you made personally.
Now however, the buck stops with you.
If you certify that you can determine the actual winner of the House District 40 primary election for State Representative, that will be directly your responsibility and your reputation on the line.
TOO MANY BALLOTS
There are now at least three precincts where we know precinct workers illegally gave voters both the ADL ballot and the Republican ballot (Koyuk (D39), Chefornak (D38) and Shungnak(D40). There may be others.
In Koyuk, a voter has called KTVA to report he was given both Republican and ADL ballots. We do not know how widespread in that precinct the illegality was. We do not know how many precincts failed to follow the law. We do know of at least three.
In Chefornak, every voter was given two ballots, apparently only one ballot was counted. It is illegal to give registered Democrats the option of voting the Republican ballot. A curious anomaly in that precinct is that every voter voted in every race on the ballots that were allegedly cast. That did not happen in any other precinct in Alaska. There is always someone who chooses not to vast a vote in a particular race, for whatever reason. Was it the voter or someone else who decided which ballot to count?
IMPOSSIBLE TO COUNT SHUNGNAK
In Shugnak, every registered Democrat was illegally given a Republican ballot and they were allowed to cast that ballot. You should review the precinct register to see if any registered member of a party other than Republican voted, and if so, they also cast an illegal vote in the Republican primary.
In Shugnak, every voter was given the ADL ballot and allowed to vote in the Democrat primary as well as the Republican primary.
You will never know how many Shungnak voters would have selected the Republican ballot and thus been unable to vote in the Democrat primary.
The contested race for the Democrat nomination for State House in Shungnak was recorded as 48 for Dean Westlake and 2 for Benjamin Nageak.
You must determine how many registered Republican, Non-Partisan and Undeclared voters participated in the Shungnak precinct.
EVERY single one of those voters could have selected ONLY the Republican ballot.
If they had been allowed to vote legally the result in the State House race could be reversed. If 25 voters had selected the Republican ballot, what would be the actual vote from Shungnak — in a Democrat House race where unofficially the result is a 21 vote lead?
There is simply no way for you to determine the actual, legal vote in the Democrat State House primary in District 40.
The Senate State Affairs Committee heard testimony on August 29, one of those testifying was a voter in Barrow. I spoke with that voter afterwards and he stated he voted at approximately 5pm.
ILLEGAL VOTER SUPPRESSION AND INSTRUCTIONS
That voter, Luke Welles, was told by the Clerks hired by the Division of Elections at the precinct that as a registered Republican that he was ineligible to participate in the ADL primary. That instruction was against the law.
He insisted he be allowed to vote a ADL ballot. The clerks relented, and he cast his vote.
How many voters objected to those illegal instructions?
How many turned away without voting?
How many succumbed to the false instructions and voted in the Republican primary?
Mr. Welles’ wife attempted to vote around noon on election day. She also was told the same improper instruction (the official Election Clerks insisting that a registered Republican was prohibited from voting an ADL primary ballot). She also insisted on her legal right to choose a ballot, and was forced to fill out additional paperwork and vote a questioned ballot.
However, there were 62 Republican primary votes cast in Browerville and Barrow precincts.
You will never know if 10, 20 or 40 of those voters preferred to vote in the Democrat primary as allowed by law but falsely told by the Election Clerks that they could not do so.
You will never know how many voters simply walked away frustrated by the illegal instructions.
What impact did this acknowledged impropriety have on a race unofficially determined by 21 votes? You simply have absolutely no way to determine the actual vote.
How many other precinct election clerks in House District 40 told registered Republican voters they could not cast an ADL ballot?
DO NOT CERTIFY WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW TO BE TRUE
While the numerous errors and illegal procedures are deplorable, thankfully only one election decision hangs in the balance. Who actually won the State House Democratic Primary in District 40? The voters tried, but the election was handled so poorly that now no one knows.
If you cannot actually determine the winner of a primary, you must not certify the election. That would be a travesty and it would condone the repeated illegal instructions given by the official election clerks.
A JUST AND FAIR SOLUTION
This dilemma can be solved justly, simply and properly by allowing voters in District 40 to determine the winner of the election by legal votes cast rather than a tainted improper and unknowable primary vote.
There are no Republican candidates in the general election and there are no third party candidates in the general election. A legal and fair election can be held on November 8 and the voters of District 40 allowed to cast legal votes for their State Representative.
Alaska Republican Party
P.S. At least two other anomalies are worthy of your review.
NO DISTRICT 40 QUESTIONED BALLOT CAST FROM OUTSIDE THE DISTRICT?
Is there even a single questioned ballot from a voter in District 40 that was cast anywhere else in Alaska? That is unprecedented. Please review the anomaly that not a single registered voter from District 40 cast a questioned ballot anywhere in Alaska except within the precincts of District 40.
SO MANY PERSONAL REPRESENTAIVE ABSENTEES
The validity of personal representative absentee ballots from Buckland (11 votes) and Kiana (5 votes). These were extraordinarily high in proportion to the population. For example, there were just 10 such ballots cast in Fairbanks. No where else in the State did proportionately so many voters cast primary ballots in that fashion.
Those absentee ballots, all cast by personal representative before the polls closed on August 16, did not appear to be logged in until August 22 in Nome. Why? The planes were not grounded.
These votes may be legitimate, but given the unusual nature and number, and given the repeated false instructions prevalent in precincts in House District 40, I urge you to please take the time to review each of these alleged votes.
Who was the personal representative? Did those voters actually meet the legal standard for personal representative absentee balloting? Why did the ballots take a nearly a week to arrive in Nome?