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Citing absentee ballot concerns, petitioners call for recount in close Kenai Peninsula primary

  • Author: Devin Kelly
  • Updated: September 5, 2018
  • Published September 5, 2018

Supporters of a losing candidate in a Republican state House primary on the Kenai Peninsula asked state officials this week for a recount, suggesting mistakes had been made and citing irregularities with absentee ballots in a primary race in Anchorage.

The recount is scheduled for Friday, though state officials say there's no evidence of such mistakes.

In District 29's primary, Benjamin Carpenter beat Wayne Ogle by 12 votes after absentee ballots were tallied. The district encompasses a broad swath of the Kenai Peninsula, including Seward, Hope, Cooper Landing, Nikiski and areas north of the cities of Kenai and Soldotna. The seat is currently held by retiring Rep. Mike Chenault, the House minority whip.

On Tuesday, fifteen voters in the district submitted a recount petition to state officials. In an unsigned petition statement provided to the Anchorage Daily News, petitioners said they were "confused and shocked" that Carpenter, referred to as "Candidate B," was ahead.

Ogle, a retired Coast Guard captain referred to as "Candidate A," was leading Carpenter by three votes prior to the absentee count, the statement said. The statement said Ogle was well-known as a longtime public servant and that Carpenter had done little active campaigning.

The statement also cited controversy that has erupted around absentee ballot irregularities in an East Anchorage state House primary. In that race, Republican incumbent Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux was trailing challenger Aaron Weaver by three votes before an absentee ballot count. LeDoux jumped far ahead after an absentee ballot count, but questions have emerged about the legitimacy of some of the ballots, which state prosecutors are now investigating.

The petitioner's statement cited the problems in LeDoux's race and said there were "probably mistakes being made in the election process in District 29 as well."

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the Division of Elections, said officials had no evidence of such problems. She said the voting irregularities had only surfaced in LeDoux's district.

Carpenter, a commercial peony farmer who also works for a sand-blasting and industrial coating contractor, said Wednesday said he also wasn't aware of allegations of bad ballots.

He suggested the recount petition was motivated more by disappointment among his opponent's supporters.

"Just because I didn't do the (right) amount of campaigning or have the correct number of signs they think I should have had to be a legitimate candidate, doesn't mean voters didn't make their correct choice," Carpenter said.

State law allows 10 qualified voters or more, or a defeated candidate, to file a recount application within five days of the certification of the election. Because the election, certified on Tuesday, was decided by fewer than 20 votes, the state will cover the cost of the recount, according to a Wednesday statement from Miller.

The recount will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday at the state Division of Elections office in Juneau.

If the results hold, Carpenter will face nonpartisan Shawn Butler in the general election.

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