PALMER -- A Matanuska-Susitna Borough investigation rejected the contention by an assembly candidate that someone, perhaps election officials, tampered with ballots during a voting glitch.
Randall Kowalke, a 68-year-old retired business executive from Willow, defeated 78-year-old Willow hardware store owner Doyle Holmes by just 33 votes in a Susitna Valley race after outstanding absentee and questioned ballots were counted last week. The election was held Oct. 6.
Holmes filed a last-minute election challenge last week just before Kowalke was set to be sworn in. The challenge was based on the procedures followed after a voting machine malfunctioned in Talkeetna.
The assembly voted without opposition during a Tuesday evening meeting to deny Holmes' election contest and adopt the 53-page election contest report and accept its finding.
Kowalke was sworn in Tuesday and takes his new assembly seat on Monday.
"I feel terrible that the hard-working clerks from Houston, from the Mat-Su Borough had their integrity impugned, the canvassing board folks, whoever was involved in this," he told the assembly.
Holmes has 10 days to appeal the decision to the state Superior Court. He did not attend the meeting.
Borough attorney Nick Spiropoulos headed up the investigation into Holmes' contention during a hearing last week that "it was possible someone switched ballots," according to a report summarizing the results of the investigation.
"However, at one point, when specifically asked if he believed that someone actually did substitute ballots (Holmes) said 'yes' and it could have been one of the 7 Election Officials involved or anyone else," the report said.
Clerks drove uncounted ballots to Houston, where other clerks -- including the borough's head clerk, Lonnie McKechnie -- picked them up and ran them through a working machine.
The Talkeetna votes were heavily in Kowalke's favor.
The report, released Monday, found that all officials involved acted appropriately and there was no "malconduct."