State Republican Rep. Lance Pruitt lost his legal challenge attempting to overturn the results of his East Anchorage district election. He lost to Democrat challenger Liz Snyder by just 11 votes.
Alaska’s Supreme Court agreed with a lower Superior Court ruling on Friday shortly after justices heard arguments in the case.
Pruitt’s lawyer, Stacey Stone, told the court that the Division of Elections mishandled how it moved the polling location in that East Anchorage district. She argued that the state didn’t give voters enough time or notice to find their new polling location.
“And I will say, this is not challenging the entirety of the election, the election had integrity. This is one precinct in one house district where there was a significant problem. Where errors happened, malconduct happened and therefore the only remedy to ensure that everyone has a constitutionally protect right — is able to exercise that right — is to have a new election,” Stone said.
The state changed the polling place in that district twice in 2020 — once just a day before the primary election and again the week before the general election. Stone argued that the state should have moved faster to determine whether it would need to change polling places again — that way it could have given more notice to voters in the district.
A Superior Court found in late December that the state could have done more but had acted in “good faith.” And the state’s lawyer, Assistant Attorney General Laura Fox told the court that the state had acted reasonably, especially given the extraordinary events of the pandemic.
“As the Superior Court found, the COVID[-19] pandemic created significant challenges and it was a dynamic situation, so you have to look at the division’s actions in that context,” Fox said.
Pruitt’s challenger, Liz Snyder, also intervened in the case. Her lawyer, Holly Wells, argued that Pruitt had made many changing claims as the case had gone on.
“It feels like a witch hunt. It feels like you are trying to do exactly the opposite of validating an election. You are trying to tear it down and you’ll do it by any means possible,” she said.
Snyder will take her seat after the legislature gavels in on Jan. 19