The most senior Republican in the Alaska House of Representatives has lost his reelection bid, the Alaska Supreme Court confirmed Friday.
In a brief order, the court said Anchorage Rep. Lance Pruitt “has not met his burden to sustain an election contest,” thus confirming an 11-vote victory by Democratic challenger and Rep.-elect Liz Snyder.
“It was great to see that come out the way we anticipated it,” Snyder said.
Had Pruitt prevailed, it could have been enough to break a 20-20 House of Representatives tie in favor of Republicans.
Twenty-one votes are needed to control the House, which is currently divided between a 20-member Republican wing and a coalition including Snyder, 15 other Democrats, three independents and one Republican. Two years ago, a similar deadlock lasted for a month before Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, was re-elected Speaker of the House.
Pruitt did not immediately answer a phone call seeking comment.
His attorney, Stacey Stone, sent a prepared statement by email.
“The integrity of our election system serves as the foundation of our government. We respect the decision of the court today, but we hope the Division (of Elections) addresses the issues that occurred in Precinct 915 so that these type of events do not occur in the future, and that all voters constitutional rights are guaranteed. We await the supreme court’s full opinion as to how they addressed the multiple points on appeal.”
When asked whether Pruitt intends to pursue any other action, Stone said, “No.”
“We believe that voters do deserve certainty. While we are disappointed in the outcome, we stand by our arguments presented, and as mentioned, fully expect the Division to be better going forward,” she said.
Earlier Friday, Stone had argued in front of the Alaska Supreme Court that a late polling change by the Alaska Division of Elections disenfranchised voters and required the calling of a new election.
Opposing her were attorneys representing the Alaska Division of Elections and Snyder. Attorney Laura Fox, representing the state, said Pruitt’s legal team “didn’t meet their burden of proof.”
“They didn’t produce a single person who couldn’t find the polling place,” she told the Supreme Court.
A lower court did find that the Division of Elections acted inappropriately but that the division’s actions were not enough to alter the result of the election. The Supreme Court’s order on Friday appeared to uphold that decision, but justices did not immediately release an explanation of their decision. That will come at a later date.
Meanwhile, Snyder said she is planning to fly to Juneau on Saturday with her family and undergo the regular weeklong orientation for new lawmakers. Because her election took two months to be resolved, she will have less time than other new legislators to get prepared for session, but she said she is ready for the challenge.
“I feel like I’m in a good spot, but definitely now, there’s also that feeling of — I need to catch up. There was already gonna be a steep learning curve,” she said. “So it’s just a little steeper, but I’ll figure it out.”