Westlake extends lead over Nageak in Northern Alaska recount

Barrow Representative Benjamin Nageak says he isn’t conceding the Democratic primary to Dean Westlake.

“No, no, no, I haven’t conceded anything,” said Nageak.

That’s despite the fact that Westlake’s lead doubled Monday from four to eight votes over Nageak in the closely watched recount.

Listen now

What remains to be seen is whether Nageak will challenge the final results in court, and — if so — whether that will change the outcome. Nageak declined to say if he plans a legal challenge, and referred further questions to his attorney, Seattle-based election-law specialist Tim McKeever.

Dean Westlake is challenging Barrow Rep. Bennie Nageak in the Democratic primary; in 2014, Westlake lost the race by 131 votes. Photo: Rachel Waldholz/Alaska’s Energy Desk
Dean Westlake is challenging Barrow Rep. Bennie Nageak in the Democratic primary; in 2014, Westlake lost the race by 131 votes. (Photo by Rachel Waldholz, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Anchorage)

In the recount, Westlake added six votes to his total reaching 825, while Nageak gained only two votes to reach 817. Two of Westlake’s votes and one of Nageak’s came from ballots that the computer scanner initially failed to count. In addition, Westlake gained three votes from questioned ballots from Ambler that were received after the Division of Elections certified the results.And both candidates gained one vote each from Kivalina, where some voters mistakenly cast ballots in both the Republican primary and in the primary for all other parties. Nageak caucuses with the Republican House majority. Republican officials are concerned about the handling of ballots in the village of Shungnak.

Rep. Benjamin Nageak addresses the Alaska House of Representatives. He's eight votes behind Dean Westlake in the HD 40 race. Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)
Rep. Benjamin Nageak addresses the Alaska House of Representatives. He’s eight votes behind Dean Westlake in the HD 40 race. Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Voters were wrongly given ballots for both the Republican primary and the primary for all other parties.

Westlake received 47 votes in Shungnak and Nageak received three. In addition, some Republicans in the North Slope Borough and elsewhere have said election officials didn’t allow them to vote in the Democratic primary, or required them to file questioned ballots. Nageak says he’s concerned about it.

“I have a lot of Republican friends in the district also, especially here in the North Slope, and I’ve heard they were turned down with, you know, with their ballots, asking for a Democrat ballot, and they won’t allow, they won’t allow that,” said Nageak.

The Democratic primary is open to all voters. Katherine Pfeiffer (FYF-fer) was observing the recount in the elections office in Juneau for the Democratic Party. Amid Division of Elections staff hovering over ballots, optical scanners and printouts, she says she was impressed.

“I think it was very well-organized. The election staff was very congenial, very helpful, answered people’s questions: a very transparent process,” said Pfeiffer.

Nageak’s observers deferred comment to Nageak. Friday is the deadline for an election challenge to be filed in Superior Court.

Previous articleAlaska News Nightly: Monday, Sept. 12, 2016
Next articleAlaska prepares for vessel disasters