Alaska House control unclear as Republican leader trails by 17 votes

A white man with glasses and a mask sits at a desk
House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, on Monday, May 18, 2020, in Juneau, Alaska. Lawmakers gaveled in for the last few days of their regular session to pass a COVID-19 aid bill. (Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

The leader of the Alaska House Republican minority caucus is now trailing his Democratic opponent after an update in the vote count on Sunday.

Read all of Alaska Public Media’s coverage of the 2020 elections

Democrat Liz Snyder leads Republican Rep. Lance Pruitt by just 17 votes. There’s an estimated 114 absentee ballots left to count.

Pruitt has been in the House for 10 years and has led the caucus the last two years.

The race between Pruitt and Snyder was the most expensive in the Legislature this year, with Snyder raising most of the money.

Control of the House is still unclear at this point.

If Snyder wins, the Republicans will have no more than 21 seats, the minimum number for a majority. But three House Republicans have caucused with the largely Democratic majority the past two years. And one — Kodiak Rep. Louise Stutes — has caucused with the majority for four years.

Another Anchorage Republican — David Nelson — solidified his odds of holding the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson-area district for the party. While Democrat Lyn Franks decreased Nelson’s lead by 25 votes on Sunday afternoon, she would need to receive more than 80 percent of the remaining ballots to overtake Nelson.

One other House race remains unresolved. It’s for a district that includes the North Slope and Northwest Arctic boroughs. Independent Josiah Patkotak is leading Democrat Elizabeth Ferguson by 148 votes, with roughly 570 ballots left to count.

Ballot Measure 2, which would overhaul Alaska’s elections, moved closer to passing. There are now 3,216 more yes votes than no votes. The margin is large enough that anyone requesting a recount would have to pay for it.

Elections workers counted more than 10,000 ballots on Sunday, representing most of the ballots that were left headed into the day.

It’s not clear when the absentee ballot counting will be complete, but it must be done by a deadline on Wednesday.

The vote counts remain unofficial until the state certifies the results. The target date for that is Nov. 25.

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