Knowns and Unknowns Among Uncounted Ballots

Gail Fenumiai
Gail Fenumiai, director of the Division of Elections

With a few candidates up and down the ticket unsure whether they won or lost, a lot of Alaskans are looking to the thousands of ballots that remain uncounted.

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Division of Elections chief Gail Fenumiai says it’s too early to say exactly how many ballots are outstanding.

“Right now we have, in the offices within the state, 23,608 absentee and early votes that are eligible to be counted,” said at mid-day today.

They are from voters who live throughout the state, not in any particular district.

“The majority of them are from non-rural areas of the state, meaning Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, the Mat-Su area,” she said.

Those are, if you will, the known unknowns. But there are thousands of other kinds of ballots to be added to the total. It’s not clear how many are in these other categories.

For starters, Fenumiai is expecting thousands of questioned ballots. Four years ago there

Voting equipment awaits storage at Division of Elections Anchorage office.
Voting equipment awaits storage at Division of Elections Anchorage office.

were 13,000, so that’s her ballpark figure. Also, almost 14,000 absentee ballots were sent to voters but not yet returned. Some of those are still arriving by mail. Plus, this year Alaska had more than 200 absentee in-person voting locations across the state.

“And those ballots, we still have some of those who will still be coming back in that were probably voted within the last five to six days,” she said.

She won’t have a count of those until they actually arrive, but she says those are likely number in the thousands, too.

The next count will take place Nov. 11, and again on the 14th through the 19, as needed.  Once the elections are certified, toward the end of the month, anyone can ask for a recount, which is free only if the results are within 10 votes, or 0.5 percent.

Fenumiai says a few precincts had trouble getting the ballots into the voting machines this year, particularly early in the day.

“The ballots were just longer. The Accuvote units just were having trouble just sucking them through, you know the roller heads on them to feed them through,” she said. “The ones that couldn’t go through went into the emergency compartment and then were fed through the unit at the end of the night before they submitted their results.”

Any that didn’t get into the machines Tuesday night are sent to Juneau so that the state review board can consider them, she said.

Despite all the money and advertising in this election, Fenumiai says turnout appears to be lower than in the three previous mid-terms. It was 44 percent by election night, but that number will rise as more ballots come in.


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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz