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Official results show 4-vote margin in northern Alaska House race, but challenge expected

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: September 6, 2016
  • Published September 6, 2016

The official results Tuesday of a razor-tight Arctic district race between two Democratic primary legislative candidates gave a four-vote edge to challenger Dean Westlake, but incumbent Rep. Ben Nageak said he will request a recount.

The certified results, released Tuesday, show Westlake of Kotzebue, with 819 votes to 815 for Nageak, of Barrow.

The count in House District 40, which covers a huge swath of northern and northwestern Alaska, could be the subject of a legal challenge. It follows reports of voting irregularities in Barrow and Shungnak.

Nageak said he may not need to pursue legal action if he wins the recount, but said a lawsuit remains an option. He said the margin narrowed in the certified tally from a previous unofficial count in late August — when Westlake led by 21 votes.

"You never know," he said. "We'll get to that point when we need to."

Westlake was backed by the Alaska Democratic Party. Nageak was one of four Bush Democrats who joined the Republican-led House majority in the most recent legislative session. Nageak was marked for defeat by the state Democratic Party.

Nageak or 10 qualified voters have five days from Tuesday to request a recount, an elections official said. Because the candidates were separated by less than 21 votes, the state will pay for a recount.

The official results come after the bipartisan State Ballot Review Board completed its final review of all election materials, said Josie Bahnke, director of the state Division of Elections. Among the ballots reviewed were 14 in-person absentee ballots from Barrow and two questioned ballots from Anaktuvuk Pass.

"While the division's goal was to certify last week, we wanted to ensure every possible detail was attended to in order to give Alaskans full confidence in the division's final tally of the results," Bahnke said in a prepared statement.

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