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Pruitt seeks to overturn narrow election loss by appealing to the Alaska Supreme Court

Published: Jan. 2, 2021 at 8:12 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -Anchorage Republican Rep. Lance Pruitt has filed an appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court in his effort to overturn his narrow election loss.

In Superior Court, Judge Josie Garton immediately threw out three of Pruitt’s four complaints when evidentiary hearings began last week. The court heard about a fourth complaint: that some voters were disenfranchised because they were not appropriately informed of a late polling location change.

Garton ruled on Tuesday that Pruitt had not proven that any voter had been prevented from voting because of inadequate notice from the Division of Elections.

Stacey Stone, Pruitt’s attorney, said that she filed an appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon. The appeal is focused on that polling location change complaint, the other three dismissed complaints will not be appealed.

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“We believe the most problematic action by the state, and the malconduct that occurred on the part of the state, was in regard to this precinct location issue,” Stone said by phone. “We want the court to look at this seriously and have as much time to consider and contemplate the issue as possible. We think that this is the most egregious of actions by the division.”

There is a separate recount appeal before the Alaska Supreme Court regarding several ballots that Pruitt’s team have argued could reverse his 11-vote loss. Stone said that appeal could be withdrawn on Wednesday to focus on the precinct change complaint.

Attorneys for the state of Alaska presented evidence in Superior Court that there was information posted about the precinct change. Voters weren’t told by mail because the change was only made one week before Election Day, said Gail Fenumiai, the director of the Division of Elections.

There were signs directing voters to the new polling location at Begich Middle School and that information was also posted online. Garton wrote in her decision that the division could have done a better job of informing voters, potentially by posting that information on social media or telling the press about the change.

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Critically, Garton said that failure did not rise to the level of violating Alaska statute nor was there evidence presented that that failure led to Pruitt’s narrow loss.

The court also heard testimony from Randolph Ruedrich, a former Alaska GOP chairman, who claimed through an analysis of voting records that fewer voters had cast ballots in precinct 915 due to the polling location change. Garton said that conclusion was not supported by the evidence provided.

There were some small differences in turnout in precinct 915 compared to neighboring precincts, but that could have been due to a myriad of factors, Garton said.

The Alaska Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for the recount appeal on Jan. 8. A decision will be needed by the justices before Jan. 19 when the Legislature convenes in Juneau and Democratic Representative-elect Liz Snyder is set to be sworn in.

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Copyright 2021 KTVF. All rights reserved.