Dodge plans appeal of results in pivotal House District 1 race

Kathryn Dodge. (Photo by Dodge campaign)

Democrat Kathryn Dodge plans to appeal the election results for House District 1, which after a recount showed her losing the pivotal race to Republican Bart LeBon by a single vote.

“I have decided to appeal the recount results,” she said in a statement posted to the Facebook page of her campaign. “I will submit the required paperwork to the Supreme Court later today. My commitment is to do all I can to ensure that every legally cast vote is counted correctly. Ultimately, it’s about determining and honoring the voters’ intent – whatever that may be.”

The results of the election were certified on Friday after a recount of results in Juneau turned up one additional vote for Dodge and two additional votes for LeBon, leaving Dodge with 2,662 votes to LeBon’s 2,663 votes.

The precise scope of Dodge’s legal challenge is not immediately clear, but her legal team has already outlined two ballots that they believe should have been included in the final results in a letter to the Division of Elections last week.

One ballot that was discovered among the questioned ballot materials was rejected by the Division of Elections as a mistake ballot that was meant to be destroyed.

The second ballot was disqualified because the Division of Elections argued it was an “overvote” where the voter impermissibly attempted to cast votes for both Dodge and LeBon by filling out both ovals. Dodge’s legal team noted that the oval next to LeBon’s name was crossed out with an “X,” and that legal precedent would argue that the voter intended to retract their vote for LeBon and cast it for Dodge.

Why it matters

The outcome of the House District 1 race will be critical to the balance of power in the Alaska House. Republicans have already staked their claim on the chamber with a 21-member majority that included LeBon (as well as other right-wing representatives that could cause problems, but that’s a story for another post).

Without LeBon, the House would be left at 20-20 person split.

The matter is further complicated by Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s selection of Republican Rep.-elect Nancy Dahlstrom, of Eagle River, to serve as the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections. Even with LeBon, party-line Republicans will only have 20 members when the Legislature is set to meet on Jan. 15 at 1 p.m.

The position will have to be filled by appointment by Dunleavy and the process has typically involved the input of local party leaders (Republicans threw a fit when Gov. Bill Walker sidestepped the process earlier this year). Republicans, including Republicans who are not part of the majority caucus, will have to vote to approve the replacement.

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