There’s little change among the leaders in Alaska’s congressional and gubernatorial races — with all three incumbents solidly positioned for reelection — halfway between Election Day and the day when ranked choice votes will be tallied to determine the winners, according to updated results released Tuesday by the state Division of Elections.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola is maintaining a dominant first-choice vote lead over two Republican challengers, Republican U.S. Senate challenger Kelly Tshibaka is clinging to a small lead over incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski (although the latter is likely to prevail from Democratic ranked choice votes) and Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy still appears assured of reelection with about 52% of first-choice votes compared to 43% for his two main challengers.
The update that includes about 10,000 ballots is the first since the “same-day” results on Election Night were released during the early morning hours last Wednesday. Another interim update is scheduled Friday since it’s the deadline for absentee ballots mailed within the U.S., with the final tally including the ranked choice preferences scheduled Nov. 23 since it’s the 15-day deadline for internationally postmarked absentee ballots to arrive.
More than 30,000 ballots remain outstanding and/or uncounted, according to elections officials. The elections division is releasing daily updates of ballots received as a way of assuring people about the integrity of the counting process, said Tiffany Montemayor, an elections division spokesperson.
“It’s not 10,000 ballots that are coming out of nowhere,” she said. “We’re receiving them every day.”
Different types of ballot processing are occurring in different offices in Juneau. Workers at the official elections division office on Tuesday were, among other things, scanning ballots originally hand-counted in their precincts to determine first-choice votes so they can be tallied during the ranked choice process if necessary. The actual counting of ballots, as well as other operations such as processing absentee ballots, is taking places in separate rooms at space the elections division occupies at Mendenhall Mall.
Members of the public are allowed to observe the counting process at the mall, but so far the disruptions and controversies involving observers in some other states aren’t occurring in Alaska, said Lauri Wilson, Region I Elections Supervisor at the mall location.
“We’ve had a few observers, not many,” she said, noting the interest isn’t drastically different compared to other elections during her roughly 30 years working for the division. “I think a few candidates and parties have rotated people through.”
Updated results by race
A total of 232,845 ballots representing 38.69% of registered voters were tallied as of about 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to the elections division. The shifts in the major races were slight, but could ultimately provide significant if ranked choice tallies are closer than expected.
In the U.S. Senate race the latest tally has Tshibaka at 44.07%, Murkowski at 42.64%, Democrat Patricia Chesbro at 9.73% and Republican Buzz Kelley (who suspended his campaign and endorsed Tshibaka shortly after the August primary) at 2.95%. Tshibaka had an initial lead of 6% in the first Election Night tally, but the margin has narrowed as uncounted votes from primarily rural regions favoring Murkowski have come in.
Peltola leads the U.S. House race with 47.38%, followed by Republicans Sarah Palin at 26.61% and Nick Begich III at 23.99%. While the combined vote totals of the Republicans could make one of them the winner, a similar number of votes for the three candidates during the August primary resulted in Peltola prevailing because many voters for the Republican candidates did not rank a second choice.
Dunleavy is retaining a dominant lead with 51.77% of the vote, followed by Democrat Les Gara at 23.11% and independent former Gov. Bill Walker at 20.32%. Even if Dunleavy were to fall below 50% when all first-choice ballots are tallied, he is expected to get most of the second-choice votes from the 4.56% of voters who picked Republican Charlie Pierce as their first choice.
Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at firstname.lastname@example.org