Barrow Rep. Nageak files dual legal challenges in primary loss

Barrow Rep. Ben Nageak filed two separate legal challenges Friday to his eight-vote defeat in last month's Democratic primary election, which was marred by reports of problems and irregularities at the polls in Nageak's District 40 in northern Alaska.

"I think evidence establishes that there were many flaws in the way the election was conducted," Tim McKeever, an attorney for Nageak, said in a phone interview. "Had the election been conducted in the way the election should have been conducted, the result would have been different."

Nageak was driving through a traffic jam in Colorado, where he's attending a wedding, and he was unavailable for comment, said a woman who answered Nageak's phone Friday.

One of Nageak's two legal challenges is in the Alaska Supreme Court, where he's appealing a state-funded recount that left him with the eight-vote deficit to challenger Dean Westlake of Kotzebue. State law says that challenge must be filed in the Supreme Court.

Nageak's attorneys are asking the justices to order a "complete review of the election and recount," and a "retabulation" of the votes cast, citing ballots they say were improperly cast, documented and counted.

The other challenge is in Superior Court, where Nageak and four local voters are contesting the way the election itself was conducted. They're asking for an order that the votes in the race be "properly tabulated and the correct result be certified," or, failing that, for a new election entirely.

McKeever said he expects both challenges to be resolved before the general election in November.

Josie Bahnke, the state elections director, said that she continues to "stand by" the decisions made in the reviews of the election and that the division was preparing for the general election in November based on the primary results.

"It's certainly his prerogative," Westlake said by phone from Kotzebue, where he was preparing for a hunting trip along the Kobuk River. "It was a close election. I appreciated everyone that went out to vote. And we'll see how things go."