House District 1 race certified tied with uncounted ballot under investigation ahead of Friday recount

Alaska election officials hold a press conference over teleconference from the division’s office in downtown Juneau on Nov. 26, 2018. Clockwise from bottom left: Elections Director Josie Bahnke, Elections Communication Manager Samantha Miller, Anchorage Daily News reporter James Brooks, State Review Board member Stuart Sliter, and State Review Board member Lynda Thater-Flemmer. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

The Alaska House District 1 race is officially tied. Monday morning, the Division of Elections certified the statewide November election as required by law, leaving the downtown Fairbanks district tied with 2,661 votes each for Democrat Kathryn Dodge and Republican Bart LeBon. And there are still ballots that might be counted.

The division held a press conference Monday in Juneau to explain the next steps in the House District 1 race. Drawing everyone’s attention is one more ballot, that was cast in the Fairbanks number 6 precinct marked for Kathryn Dodge.

“The state review board has inspected and counted every ballot from the district, with the exception of one ballot that’s currently being investigated further to determine if it will be counted on Friday.”

Josie Bahnke, director of the Division of Elections, explained the ballot was found in a second secrecy sleeve outside of the AccuVote counting machine.

“It wasn’t until we received all the elections materials, in their entirety, to determine this voted ballot in a secrecy sleeve, was not, in fact, a questioned ballot.”

Stuart Sliter of the review board said they are investigating the way voters signed in before voting at the Fairbanks 6 precinct. With 367 voters signed in, and 365 ballots cast, one less signature, and one more ballot will explain the anomaly.

“One of the names that has been highlighted, is between a husband and wife’s name. The husband and wife came in, they highlighted two names that are the same, but the husband’s is on the next page.”

Because of the tie, there will be an automatic recount at 10 a.m. Friday. And it seems likely that last uncounted ballot will go into the mix, along with any other mailed-in ballots that might arrive before the recount.

Ballots coming in this late are very often from voters in the military, serving overseas. They must be postmarked on Election Day. There are as many as 60 unreturned absentee ballots that still could come in for House District 1, though normally the return is a fraction of those sent out.

KTOO’s Jeremy Hsieh contributed to this report.