Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi ordered the Division of Elections to certify that incumbent Benjamin Nageak of Barrow won the primary over Dean Westlake of Kotzebue by a two-vote margin. The outcome of the primary could determine who organizes a House majority. While both are Democrats, Nageak caucuses with the Republican-led House majority, and Westlake said he’ll caucus with the Democrats. The decision reverses the outcome of a recount, which had Westlake winning by eight votes. Nageak, who is the co-chairman of the House Resources Committee, expressed relief. “I’m pleased by the court’s result and hopeful it will be sustained during the appeal to the Supreme Court,” Nageak said. “I’m sure that’s where it’s going to go. And I hope this decision will result in improvement of training.”
The outcome hinges on the Kobuk River village of Shungnak, where local election officials wrongly allowed 50 voters to cast ballots in both the Republican primary and in the “ADL” primary for the Alaska Independence, Democratic and Libertarian parties. Westlake led Nageak in Shungnak, 47 votes to three, after the recount but before the decision.
Judge Guidi decided to subtract votes, based on the average number of Shungnak residents who voted in Republican primaries over the past 10 years.
Guidi subtracted 12 votes based on the idea that they would have voted Republican. He took away 11 votes from Westlake in Shungnak, as well as one from Nageak. He also decided that election officials wrongly allowed both candidates to gain one vote from Kivalina in the recount.