Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth speaks at an appeal of a recount in a Fairbanks state house race on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, in Anchorage, Alaska. The Alaska Supreme Court appointed Aarseth as a special master to prepare a report on an appeal of a recount in the race between Republican Bart LeBon and Democrat Kathryn Dodge. LeBon held a one-vote lead after the recount. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth speaks at an appeal of a recount in a Fairbanks state house race on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, in Anchorage, Alaska. The Alaska Supreme Court appointed Aarseth as a special master to prepare a report on an appeal of a recount in the race between Republican Bart LeBon and Democrat Kathryn Dodge. LeBon held a one-vote lead after the recount. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)

Judge backs Alaska elections division in recount

  • By DAN JOLING Associated Press
  • Friday, December 21, 2018 2:39am
  • News

ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Division of Elections properly recounted votes in a state House race decided by one vote, a Superior Court judge decided Thursday.

The Alaska Supreme Court named Judge Eric Aarseth as a special master to prepare a report on the recount appeal by Democrat Kathryn Dodge. The recount showed her losing by one vote to Republican Bart LeBon in a race for a seat from Fairbanks in the Alaska House.

Aarseth will turn in a written report Friday and the state Supreme Court will have the final say after a hearing next month. Aarseth from the bench after a hearing Thursday said elections officials followed the law as set up by legislators.

There may be times, he said, when a vote is counted even though it was cast by someone who is not a resident. However, state lawmakers set up election law to ensure the continuity of leadership in the state without long delays, he said.

“The Legislature has made the emphasis that a prompt decision, in my words, is more important than perfection in the election process itself,” Aarseth said.

LeBon did not attend the hearing. Dodge said afterward she was evaluating the decision and had no immediate comment.

The crux of Dodge’s appeal came down to two ballots accepted by election officials and one that was rejected.

Elections officials received two absentee ballots listing Fairbanks addresses that did not appear to be residences, she testified. One was from a doctor who listed a suite in a strip mall as his residence.

“It appeared to me to be a space in an industrial park, not a residence,” Dodge said.

Contacted after the recount, the doctor in an affidavit said he works in both California and Alaska, that he did not live at the listed address in 2018, and that his actual Fairbanks home was in another political district.

The second ballot Dodge questioned was from a woman who listed her residence as a repair shop for automobile glass.

The testimony touched off discussion of the obligation of election officials to investigate claims that voters were not actual residents of a district. State attorneys argued that it’s beyond the scope of a recount for election officials to launch investigations into questioned residencies, and that matching addresses on absentee ballots to a voter’s official registration satisfied the requirement of the law.

Attorneys for Dodge also questioned the rejection of a ballot filled out by a voter whose residency address changed without his knowledge when he applied for an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.

Robert Beconovich testified that he showed up at his usual polling place and was told he was no longer registered in the district. He gets his mail at his office, he said, and when his office moved, he changed the address for his dividend check.

He did not realize, he said, that voter residency also would change under an Alaska law that took effect in 2017. Election officials rejected the questioned ballot he cast.

Under questioning by Aarseth, Beconovich acknowledged that he was responsible for thoroughly reading the dividend application.

The case carries importance beyond a single House seat. The ballot dispute comes as the House struggles to organize a majority ahead of the start of next month’s legislative session.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case on Jan. 4.


• By DAN JOLING, Associated Press


More in News

Copies of the Peninsula Clarion are photographed on Friday, June 21, 2024. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Announcing a new Peninsula Clarion print schedule

Our last Wednesday edition will be delivered June 26.

A bucket of recently caught sockeye salmon rests on the sand while anglers seek to fill it further at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Dipnetting in Kasilof opens Tuesday

Dipnetting will be allowed at all times until Aug. 7

The Kasilof River is seen from the Kasilof River Recreation Area, July 30, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Fish and Game restricts bait on Kasilof, Ninilchik Rivers

The use of bait on the rivers will begin Friday and extend to July 15 in Ninilchik, July 31 in Kasilof

A man fishes in the Kenai River on July 16, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/file)
Slow sockeye fishing on Kenai, Russian Rivers

Northern Kenai Fishing Report for June 20

Alaska Department of Fish and Game logo. (Graphic by Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Bag limits doubled for sockeye salmon in Resurrection Bay

The increase is effective from June 21 to July 31

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Girl Scout Troop 210, which includes Caitlyn Eskelin, Emma Hindman, Kadie Newkirk and Lyberty Stockman, present their “Bucket Trees” to a panel of judges in the 34th Annual Caring for the Kenai Competition at Kenai Central High School on Thursday, April 18.
Caring for the Kenai winners receive EPA award

Winning team of the 34th annual Caring for the Kenai was selected for the President’s Environmental Youth Award

Norm Blakely speaks to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly approves resolution guiding efforts to increase voter turnout

The Voter Turnout Working Group was established to explore options and ideas aimed at increasing voter participation

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Update: Bodies of 2 men retrieved from submerged plane in wake of reported Moose Pass crash

A pair of hikers witnessed and reported the crash around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, trooper say

Most Read