Alaska Legislature

Alaska lawmaker takes state-paid tour of Arizona’s Republican-led election audit

One of Alaska’s most conservative state lawmakers toured a controversial audit of Arizona’s election results on Monday. The audit, organized by Arizona’s Republican-controlled Senate, is part of a nationwide search by Trump supporters for any evidence of fraud that could have changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, said the visit will help determine whether any lessons learned by that state can be applied in Alaska. He said he’s visiting on behalf of his constituents and intends to pay for the trip out of his legislative office account.

“I am grateful for the efforts that those in Arizona are making to increase confidence in their elections and hope we will be able to increase the confidence that Alaskans have in our elections as well,” he said.

Former President Donald Trump lost last year’s presidential election, and public officials nationwide have found no evidence that widespread fraud or wrongdoing determined the result. The president has repeatedly said he believes otherwise, and many of his supporters have sought to find evidence of significant fraud.

In Arizona, the state Senate subpoenaed ballots and voting machines from the state’s most populous county and hired a little-known firm to conduct an audit. The result has been chaotic at times. Some workers have taken to using UV lights and microscopes in search of evidence for a conspiracy theory that says ballots were illegally smuggled from Asia.

Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, a Republican who oversees Alaska’s elections, said he had heard of Eastman’s trip and was “disappointed.”

The Alaska Legislature is in a special session to consider the state budget. Most lawmakers have departed the Capitol while a handful of negotiators continue to work. Meyer said he believes legislators should be in Juneau, not in Arizona or elsewhere.

Eastman’s presence was first noted by an Arizona reporter who took pictures and video of Eastman’s guided tour across the floor of Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

Eastman said he traveled alone and isn’t aware of any other Alaska legislators who have attended the proceedings.

“Alaskans must have confidence in the integrity of our election process. Following the audit, regardless of the outcome, Arizonans will have confidence in their process. Alaskans deserve to have that same level of confidence. If the audit confirms the results, great. If it identifies weaknesses, those weaknesses can be addressed,” he said by text message.

Trump won in Alaska, and to verify the accuracy of the state’s voting process, Meyer ordered a by-hand recount of all ballots cast in November last year, looking for differences in the votes cast for Ballot Measure 2, the closest of all statewide races.

Out of 361,400 ballots cast, the hand count was only 24 votes different from the final electronic count.

Other races were subject to random audits.

When asked whether he has concerns with Alaska’s 2020 elections result, Eastman said, “The process that Alaska used during the last election did not provide the transparency that is required in 2021. When members of the public have raised concerns about that process, both before and after the election, those administering our elections have not responded with transparency. Frequently, their response has been to discount those concerns rather than work to resolve them.”

The Alaska Department of Law has said several times since the election that it has received complaints about elections issues and is investigating. No charges have been filed since the 2020 election.

Almost 72% of the voters in Eastman’s district picked Trump, the second-highest rate in the state. In December, he was among seven Alaska lawmakers who attempted to join a lawsuit brought by Texas to block certification of the national election results. The US Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

On Jan. 6, Eastman was among Alaskans who attended the pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C. Some of the participants in that rally later stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the results; Eastman did not participate in the riot at the Capitol.

Though Eastman may be Alaska’s most prominent elected defender of Trump’s election-fraud theories, his views appear common among elected Republicans here. In a January interview, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said President Joe Biden was elected, but he declined to say that Biden’s election was legitimate.

“It would appear that the courts believe so,” Dunleavy said. “I mean, he’s our president.”

In an informal email survey of all 60 Alaska legislators by the Anchorage Daily News earlier this year, no Republicans were willing to say that Biden was legitimately elected.

Some, including Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, and Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, said that regardless of the result, Alaskans and Americans need to move on.

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