JUNEAU, Alaska – The Alaska Supreme Court should order a new election in a state House race lost by Republican Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, his attorney argues, saying state election officials did not properly act in changing a polling location.
Superior Court Judge Josie Garton recently ruled that election officials could have done more but acted in “good faith” in trying to notify voters of the change to an Anchorage polling site days before the Nov. 3 election.
Garton said Pruitt had not shown that any voter was kept from voting because of any lack of required notice.
The Alaska Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Friday, 11 days before the next Legislature is set to convene.
A recount showed Pruitt lost to Democrat Liz Snyder by 11 votes.
Pruitt attorney Stacey Stone, in court documents, said the Division of Elections should have acted sooner to confirm whether a planned polling location would be available for the November election and done more to provide notice when they learned it wasn’t.
“Because the Division cannot add votes that were not cast, and it would be improper to now inquire into past intentions, the only remedy is a new election,” she said.
Attorneys for the state said election officials had to change a precinct polling location twice last year — once for the primary and again ahead of the general election — when the property owner declined to host it. Voters were notified with signs at the prior locations and with website and voter hotline updates, a filing by Assistant Attorneys General Laura Fox, Thomas Flynn and Margaret Paton Walsh states.
The law setting out notice requirements such as publication in a newspaper and notice to community councils is geared toward permanent and not “temporary, last-minute changes,” they said.
Neither the House nor the Senate has yet organized ahead of the new legislative session.