Anchorage Superior Court Judge Josie Garton said Tuesday that she found no flaws with the way the Alaska Division of Elections counted votes in the close legislative race between incumbent state Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage and Democratic challenger Liz Snyder.
In a separate order, she also concluded that Pruitt’s attorneys failed to demonstrate that a late polling place change altered the result of the election.
Snyder defeated Pruitt by 11 votes in the final, recounted result, but Pruitt launched a pair of legal challenges that dispute both the final vote count and the way the election was conducted. In both cases, Garton confirmed Snyder’s victory.
The Alaska Supreme Court will have the final say. It has scheduled oral arguments Jan. 8, and a decision is expected before the 32nd Alaska Legislature begins Jan. 19.
Pruitt’s attorney, Stacey Stone, did not respond to a phone call asking for comment.
Pruitt himself said he was disappointed that Garton dismissed Stone’s claim that some absentee-voting District 27 residents voted illegally because they did not live in the district for at least 30 days before the election. Absentee voters favored Snyder, and disqualifying some of them would have favored Pruitt.
Garton dismissed that particular claim Dec. 22, saying Stone and Pruitt failed to file their complaint on time. Even if they had filed it on time, Garton said Pruitt failed to challenge those voters’ eligibility earlier in the process, when allowed by law.
Pruitt said he was also disappointed by Garton’s determination about the polling place change. Garton found the Division of Elections didn’t follow state law but did the best it could during the pandemic.
“She clearly states that they screwed up,” he said. “But the synopsis is, we just don’t have enough time to fix it.”
Pruitt and his attorney relied on Republican political strategist Randy Ruedrich to make the case that the polling place location deflated Election Day turnout. Election Day voters favored Pruitt, and he hoped that a successful argument would make the case for a new election.
But Garton decided differently.
“The court cannot find that, even if there was an Election Day undervote in 27-915 (which is not clear), and even if the undervote was solely the result of the change in the polling place (which is not clear), the Division’s failure to notify the Municipal Clerk caused a reduction in votes sufficient to change the result of the election,” she wrote.