Lance Pruitt is in state court arguing that mistakes (malfeasance?) by the Division of Elections cost him his reelection to the State House. Details of the court challenge can be found on Court View. Anchorage Superior Court Judge Garton told Pruitt’s legal team she was going to dismiss everything before any arguments were heard. She reconsidered that and retained a single argument because she expected the case to be returned to her from the Alaska Supreme Court based on her failure to even hear the case. The case is scheduled before the Alaska Supreme Court Friday, Jan 8.
With this in mind, she did a bit of legal gymnastics, finding no flaw in the way the Division of Elections counted votes in the Pruitt – Snyder District 27 race. She concluded that Pruitt failed to demonstrate the late polling place change altered the result of the election. Garton also dismissed Pruitt’s claim that some District 27 residents voted illegally because they had moved out of state. Her final claim, and most egregious, was the observation that there is simply not enough time to adjudicate the case before the new legislature convenes Jan 19.
The crux of the case is that the Division of Elections moved precinct voting location at the last minute. It turns out that this didn’t matter to Pruitt’s democrat opponent, Dirt Doctor Liz Snyder as she knew about the move, lied to the court about that knowledge, and her supporters mostly voted early via absentee. This did matter to Pruitt’s supporters who turned out on Election Day. Turnout in this particular precinct among Republicans was statistically depressed. Combine the illegal absentee ballots and the depressed Republican turnout at the new precinct location and you put enough votes in question to order a new election. The initial case was well covered by Suzanne Downing in Must Read Alaska early in December.
Three pieces of this get my attention.
First, due dates no longer apply to the Alaskan Judiciary. The Alaska Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the State of Alaska deadline for candidate changes on the state ballot were meaningless when they approved the Walker – Mallott Unity ticket well after the statutory deadline for making changes. Now we have a Superior Court judge citing some sort of deadline as an excuse to make no decision on the legitimacy of the election? It makes you wonder whose precedent she pays attention to.
Second is the last-minute move of the precinct voting location from its traditional site to a new one. The presiding judge finds that this is of no matter even though this year’s vote at the location was depressed and worse, the democrat candidate was aware of the move. Given the prevalence of election fraud in other states, this would seem to be a red flag. If the Alaska Supreme Court rules that this is a simple mistake with no avenue available to make it whole, I can play in that world. A suitably energized Division of Elections can ensure no democrat is ever elected in this state again by simply moving polling places for democrat-heavy precincts at the last minute and claiming afterwards it was just a mistake. Election fraud via oopsie. And if democrats can do it with impunity, so can everyone else.
Finally, in response to the Pruitt claims of illegal absentee ballots by people who moved out of state, the Division of Elections is arguing before the State Supreme Court that ONLY THEY are legally able to determine who is a resident and who is not. Any independent evidence should be rejected out of hand. Of course, none of this exists in state law, meaning the Division of Elections is inviting the State Supreme Court to write new election law on the fly again. And this is all being done under a Republican Governor and Republican LtGov. Imagine what the next democrat elected as governor can do with this sort of precedent.
It’s going to be real interesting to see what the State Supremes choose to do with this one. If they do the right thing, they toss the election and demand another one. If they take the bait and start making up new election law on the fly, anything can happen. We will hope they do the right thing.
Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He was a small business owner and Information Technology professional.