Alaska Legislature

Local voters to request a recount of Anchorage Republican Rep. Lance Pruitt’s 13-vote loss to Democrat Liz Snyder

A group of 10 Anchorage voters intends to request a recount of the state election that saw Alaska’s top House Republican, Anchorage Rep. Lance Pruitt, lose by 13 votes to Democratic challenger Liz Snyder.

The voters’ attorney, Stacey Stone, said late Tuesday that the group will submit signatures for a recount soon.

“There is a group that’s organized from District 27 that plans to request a recount. I’m not certain when that will be filed, but it should be shortly,” she said.

Late Monday, a Pruitt aide had said that Pruitt himself would request the recount. Pruitt, reached late Tuesday, said that isn’t accurate.

“I am not requesting a recount, but I do know of some constituents that intend to, and they are doing it separate from me,” he said.

The Alaska Division of Elections certified the results of Alaska’s 2020 general election on Monday afternoon, opening a five-day window for losing candidates or voters to request a recount. State law allows voters to request a recount of a House race if they obtain at least 10 signatures from an affected legislative district.

Alaska conducts automatic recounts only in case of a tie, but if the results are within one-half of one percentage point, the state will pay for any requested recount.

Pruitt’s race is the only one from this year’s general election within that margin.

Tiffany Montemayor, the public relations manager for the Alaska Division of Elections, said as of 3:40 p.m. Tuesday that no recount requests have been received by the division. If a request is received, the state is required to conduct that recount within five days. It would take place at the division’s Juneau headquarters.

Snyder said a recount would not be a surprise.

“We still feel like we’re in a good position and we want all valid votes to be counted,” she said. “We’re standing by.”

Of 35 recounts recorded by the elections division since 1958, just six changed the winner. Only once was the margin greater than the current gap between Snyder and Pruitt. In 1978, Republican Tim Kelly gained 28 votes in a recount, enough to win a state Senate race.

That tally does not include election results changed by court order. Defeated candidates and dissatisfied voters have until Dec. 7 to challenge this year’s election results in state court.

[Alaskans have approved ranked-choice voting. Now what?]

Snyder led by 16 votes in unofficial results published in early November. Certified results show six ballots were added to the tally in House District 27 by reviewers before the result was certified. Five contained valid votes for the state House race, and of those, four were for Pruitt. That leaves the final gap at 13 votes.

Montemayor said the late-counted ballots were not able to be scanned at the precinct on Election Day and were sealed in an envelope for post-election review.

“This has been the standard practice of the division for years,” she said.

While no other recount is expected, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer has requested a hand-count audit of all ballots cast for Ballot Measure 2. Functionally, that audit will be similar to a hand recount. The audit will take place starting Dec. 7, Montemayor said.

Ballot Measure 2, which would change how Alaska’s elections are conducted, passed by 1.1%, or 3,781 of the 361,400 votes cast in this year’s election.

[Lawsuit challenges Alaska’s new ranked-choice voting ballot measure]

When it becomes effective in early 2021, the measure will require all state political candidates to compete in a single primary election for each office. Local elections are not affected. The top four vote-getters from that election will then compete in a ranked-choice general election. The measure also requires additional financial disclosure for some campaign contributions.

[Correction: An earlier version of this article said Rep. Lance Pruitt himself would request a recount, citing one of his aides. Pruitt has since said that is not accurate, and the article has been updated to say that a group of voters is requesting a recount instead.]

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