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In North Slope recount, Westlake doubles 4-vote lead over incumbent Rep. Nageak

  • Author: Nathaniel Herz
  • Updated: September 13, 2016
  • Published September 12, 2016

The recount in the Democratic primary for the Alaska Legislature's Arctic seat resulted Monday in a doubling of challenger Dean Westlake's tiny lead over incumbent Rep. Ben Nageak.

Westlake, from Kotzebue, had 825 votes to 817 for Nageak, from Barrow. That puts Westlake eight votes ahead after the original tally had him leading 819-815 following the Aug. 16 primary.

Nageak's attorney, Tim McKeever, said no decision has been made about whether to challenge the results or the way the election was run. Reports of irregularities surfaced from several precincts.

"We're going to get with our client later this week and figure out what he thinks the appropriate way to proceed is," he said.

The new votes came from a handful of places within House District 40, said Josie Bahnke, the state elections director.

Some were ballots with "marginal" markings that weren't counted initially. Three more were questioned ballots from the Northwest Alaska village of Ambler that arrived late in the mail.

And two additional Democratic primary votes were counted from the coastal village of Kivalina, Bahnke said.

The Kivalina votes were part of a batch of seven questioned ballots given to villagers who asked for both the Republican Party ballot and the ballot with other parties' candidates.

Alaska law says voters should only get one, but the elections division decided to count the questioned Kivalina ballots to match how officials counted the votes in another village, Shungnak, where a precinct worker wrongly gave both ballots to each voter.

Of the seven questioned Kivalina votes, five were on Republican ballots, and one each went to Westlake and Nageak, Bahnke said.

Republicans have argued that the election should be re-run because of the voting problems reported in the district. But Bahnke said any further remedies or appeals of the results would have to be pursued by the candidates.


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