Nageak lawsuit against state election officials to proceed

The case of Rep. Ben Nageak, D-Barrow, vs. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Director of Elections Josie Bahnke will start on Tuesday. Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi has ruled that the trial must begin next week and end no later than Oct. 3 so that the Division of Elections will have proper time to mail ballots ahead of the general election.

Attorney Stacey Stone, representing Nageak, requested additional time to put together a comprehensive witness list, as rural witnesses must be both properly vetted and logistically organized, continue the discovery process, and issue the necessary subpoenas.

“The reality is that absentee voting starts on Oct. 24,” countered Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh. “That means ballots need to be mailed out by Oct. 17 which means we probably need a decision by the Supreme Court by Oct. 14.”

In order for that to happen however, Guidi would need to make a decision by Oct. 7.

“This sort of litigation is always expedited. That is something that the plaintiffs have to embrace when they file a lawsuit like this,” said Paton-Walsh.

“We assert that the Division of Elections violated the law,” said Stone. “Essentially they created this issue,” she added, referring to the need to expedite proceedings.

Tom Amodio, counsel for Dean Westlake, who defeated Negeak by eight votes in the Democrat primary after a recount, said his client supports the state’s position.

The District 40 race does not have another candidate for the seat, meaning the winner of the primary will be heading to the Legislature next year. The election was marred by improper distribution of ballots which included some voters being given both the Republican and Democrat ballots.

Bahnke, Nageak attorney Tim McKeever and Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar all appeared in court by phone.

McKeever requested that a dozen “special needs ballots” — submitted by elders of Buckland — be forwarded so that his team may inspect the originals prior to the start of trial, specifically for unobscured signatures. The judge ordered that copies be forwarded and originals be sent via courier to the Department of Law.

Referring to the request as a fishing expedition, Paton-Walsh did not understand the concern, saying that redacted copies have already been provided.

“I don’t understand why they are particularly concerned about these ballots,” she told the Journal following the status hearing. “I don’t think there is any basis for suspicion about the special needs ballots at all.”

What happens next

House District 40 has various “absentee voting in person” locations that need to have ballots available by Oct. 24. If the case is not resolved by the Supreme Court by Oct. 14, Westlake will appear on the ballot, creating potential disenfranchisement, and at the very least, confusion on the part of voters if it turns out that Nageak is the actual candidate, Paton-Walsh explained to the Journal.

Furthermore, if there needed to be a special election because deadlines were not met, then it becomes an election where it’s just this one race on the ballot. In that case, she said, “far fewer people turn out to vote” as those who came out for the primary in August may not be able to come to a special election.

Stephanie Prokop can be reached at stephanie.prokop@alaskajournal.com.

More in News

2022 gubernatorial candidate Charlie Pierce walks in the 65th annual Soldotna Progress Days Parade on Saturday, July 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Pierce among leaders in governor’s race

Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy leads the pack overall

Braeden Garrett holds signs supporting Alaska House of Representatives candidate Justin Ruffridge at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Ruffridge, Babcock lead in early primary results

Unofficial preliminary primary election results showed significant margins between the first- and second-place candidates

Pollworkers Carol Louthan (center) and Harmony Bolden (right) work at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Local voters cast ballots, try out ranked choice

Locally, multiple candidates have their sights set on seats in the Alaska Legislature.

U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka joins Donald Trump on stage during a rally at the Alaska Airlines Center on July 9, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Tshibaka is seeking to become one of four candidates to advance in the U.S. Senate race during Alaska’s primary election Tuesday, Aug. 16. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File)
U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka joins Donald Trump on stage during a rally at the Alaska Airlines Center on July 9, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Tshibaka is seeking to become one of four candidates to advance in the U.S. Senate race during Alaska’s primary election Tuesday, Aug. 16. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File)
Murkowski advances in Senate race, Palin in House

Kelly Tshibaka, her GOP rival endorsed by former President Donald Trump, was among the candidates bound for the November general election

The Alaska State Capitol is seen in Juneau, Alaska, in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Supreme Court rules against forward funding for education, confirms limit on legislative power

Setting multi-year budgets in Alaska requires cash on hand, justices said

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
What to watch: Cheney in trouble; Palin eyes comeback

Sarah Palin jumped on a vacancy in the state’s congressional delegation as a potential springboard back into elected office

Assembly members participate during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly to revisit gravel pit legislation

A proposed ordinance would overhaul borough code addressing material site permits

Campaign signs decorate the outside of Paradisos Restaurant on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Election 2022: Where, how, when to vote

Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday

As measured by the CDC, dispensing rate reflects the number of prescriptions dispensed per 100 persons per year. While the United States’ dispensing rate peaked at 81.3 in 2012, the Kenai Peninsula’s rate was 100 or higher every year between 2001 and 2015. Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara.
Borough creates grant program to distribute opioid settlement funds

The Kenai Peninsula Borough will offer hundreds of thousands of dollars in… Continue reading

Most Read