Vote Gap Between Murkowski and Miller Narrows Slightly

Photo and Story by Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The absentee ballot count today in the Republican U.S. Senate primary shows a slight narrowing of the gap between Lisa Murkowski and Joe Miller at this hour. As of 5:00 p.m., Miller is leading Murkowski by 1,469 votes, down from 1,668 votes after last Tuesday’s election.

Thousands of absentee ballots were counted today at the Anchorage office of the state division of elections. The ballots are pivotal in the outcome of the race for Alaska’s available US Senate seat in the November election.

But things were quiet this morning as election volunteers, most of them women, sat at their workstations. Both the Miller and the Murkowski campaigns had sent observers to watch the proceedings. Gail Fenumiai, division of elections director, said ballot counting was taking place at the same time in Wasilla

Fenumiai said questioned ballots, those voted on election day, but without proper address identification, are verified by a bipartisan review board. Despite fears expressed by the Miller campaign regarding mishandling of the vote count, the operation seemed to go smoothly. Other than a handful of reporters, there were few members of the public in evidence at the division office in Anchorage.

When new numbers were posted to the state election division website shortly before eleven this morning, the returns showed a slight lessening of the gap between the two candidates – in Murkowski’s favor. John Bitney speaks for Lisa Murkowski’s campaign.

The districts reflecting the early returns were in Anchorage and Eagle River. Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto said he wasn’t worried about them

Shortly after noon, Matanuska Valley election officials finished counting absentee votes in Wasilla. Those returns lessened Miller’s advantage by about one tenth of a percentage point.

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