With Votes Still Coming In, Elections Division Prepares For Count

After a week of collecting and reviewing absentee and questioned ballots, the Division of Elections will start counting votes on Tuesday.

The Division of Elections has nearly 50,000 uncounted ballots in its possession with more still coming in. Director Gail Fenumiai says it’s unlikely that staff will get through all of them in one day.

“I would love to have half, but I don’t know if we’re going to be there. We really are trying to concentrate on those districts that we haven’t counted any absentees for yet.”

Some of the regional elections offices will start their counts at 9am. In Anchorage, workers will start opening ballots at 1pm. Because absentee ballots in some districts have already been counted, Fenumiai says the focus will be on places like Juneau and the Kenai Peninsula where no absentees have been processed.

“I know for sure we’re counting the rest of the early votes that haven’t been counted, which is just a little over 2,600,” says Fenumiai. “But we’re hoping to dig into some questioned ballots and get a bunch of absentees ballots for districts that haven’t already been counted.”

Even after Tuesday’s count, the number of ballots could continue to rise. The Division of Elections accepts absentee ballots postmarked within the United States through Friday, with a deadline of November 19 for absentee ballots mailed from abroad.

But in recent days, the biggest gains the Division of Elections has seen have been in the category of “absentee in-person” votes. Those are votes cast at regional election offices or at 200-odd voting stations across the state in advance of Election Day.
So far, 10,000 absentee in-person ballots have been returned.

“Our mail is starting to slow down, we’re not getting a lot of ballots in the mail,” says Fenumiai. “But we’re still continuing to see a rise in the ballots to be counted due to those [absentee in-person] ballots.”

This has resulted in some vagueness over the total number of votes cast. The Division of Elections has a sense of how many mailed absentee ballots they have to process, because those need to be requested in advance. But Fenumiai says there isn’t an estimate of how many more absentee in-person votes may come in because those ballots don’t require any sort of early paperwork from voters.

“It would require a daily monitoring of 200+ locations to find out how many people did [elections workers have] vote each day,” says Fenumiai. “So it’s just something that isn’t done because that’s a huge task.”

Right now, neither the Senate race nor the gubernatorial race has been conceded. Republican Dan Sullivan leads Democratic incumbent Mark Begich by 8,000 votes in the Senate race, while unaffiliated candidate Bill Walker has a 3,000-vote lead over Republican Gov. Sean Parnell.

The Division of Elections expects to update its unofficial results by early evening on Tuesday.