Alaska vote count resumes on Tuesday with many races undecided

A poll worker in a mask sits behind a wooden desk
A Dillingham poll worker sits behind a plexiglass shield to help voters cast their ballots. The Alaska Division of Elections will resume counting votes on Tuesday, seven days after Election Day. (Brian Venua/KDLG)

Alaska’s vote count will pick up again on Tuesday with more than 156,000 ballots left to count. 

The remaining ballots include all 129,934 absentee ballots accepted so far — including those that were sent by mail or through the internet.

The absentee ballots include 22,933 of what are called in-person absentee ballots. They are a form of early voting where a trained poll worker isn’t available to check each voters’ records. In-person absentee ballots comprise most of the early voting in the Kenai Peninsula and most of the state off of the road system. 

This week’s counting also includes the 16,961 ballots cast using the regular kind of early voting during the last four days before Election Day. This form of early voting is similar to the voting procedures on Election Day and is done on most of the road system and in Juneau.

Election workers also will count questioned ballots this week. Through the weekend, the state had accepted 9,548 questioned ballots. Most questioned ballots are from voters who are registered to vote but voted in a different precinct than the one for the address on their voter registration card. These ballots usually count for statewide elections but not for state House elections. 

The Alaska races that remain unresolved include:

  • Ballot Measure 2, which would overhaul the state’s election system. “No” has received 24,113 more votes than “yes” so far.  
  • The statewide races for U.S. president, U.S. senator and U.S. representative, as well as Ballot Measure 1 which would increase taxes for large oil producers. The Republican candidates and No on 1 are leading by more than 50,000 in all four races. But the Associated Press hasn’t called any of the races.
  • Six races where Democratic incumbent state legislators are trailing their Republican challengers. Anchorage Democratic Rep. Chris Tuck is trailing Republican Kathy Henslee by 549 ballots, the biggest margin of the incumbents, with the next biggest in Fairbanks, where Rep. Adam Wool is trailing Kevin McKinley by 471 ballots. 
  • Republicans are aiming all of their seats in Legislature and form a new majority in the House. The two closest races for seats currently held by Republicans are both in Anchorage. David Nelson is leading Lyn Franks by 389 votes to succeed Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, who Nelson defeated in the primary. A Republican Rep. Mel Gillis is leading by 831 over Calvin Schrage, an independent nominated by the Democrats. 

Voter turnout was relatively strong this year. Including the nearly 193,000 ballots already counted, there were at least 349,000 ballots cast. That is roughly two-thirds of the Alaska population that’s eligible to vote, according to the United States Elections Project, which is maintained by University of Florida political scientist Michael McDonald. More ballots countinue to be added to the total.

Alaska’s turnout was slightly higher than national turnout estimated by the U.S. Elections Project. It would be the highest turnout as a share of Alaska’s eligible population since at least 2008, and is much higher than the last two presidential elections.

The last day the state accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day and mailed within the United States is Friday. Overseas ballots postmarked by Election Day will be accepted through Nov. 18, which also is the deadline to complete the absentee ballot count. The counts will remain unofficial until they’re certified. The target date for certification is Nov. 25.

Alaska is the only state to wait seven days to start counting absentee and other ballots that weren’t counted on Election Day. Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai has said the state must compare the ballots against all of the ballots counted last week to ensure no one voted twice. 

Other states use provisional or questioned ballots to do that. They have people who go to vote in person who had requested absentee ballots — and who don’t destroy the absentee ballots — vote by provisional ballots. 

Fenumiai said doing things Alaska’s way eliminates the need to process unnecessary questioned ballots. And she said it is easier procedurally for poll workers and voters to understand. 

Late on Monday, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer released the schedule for Tuesday’s count. His office said updates will be released each day at 5 p.m. and when the Division of Elections closes for business. On Tuesday, at least some ballots will be counted in 23 of the state’s 40 House districts. During the primary, the vast majority of remaining ballots had been counted by the fourth day of absentee ballot counting. While there are many more ballots to count for the general election, the division also has hired more workers.