The 151 votes separating U.S. Rep. Don Young and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell in the cliffhanger race for the Republican nomination for Young's seat in Congress are dwarfed by more than 25,000 absentee and questioned ballots to be counted Friday.
Gail Fenumiai, director of the state Division of Elections, said more than 14,900 absentee ballots had arrived as of Tuesday. There's another 12,200 or so questioned ballots, she said.
It's unknown how many of the absentee and questioned ballots will be determined eligible to be counted. The absentees must have been postmarked by election day, and elections workers will make sure that both the absentees and questioned ballots were cast by registered voters.
There are a comparative handful of other votes still outstanding.
Election workers in Petersburg and Wrangell ran out of Republican primary ballots on election day, and provided sample ballots instead to 204 voters in Petersburg and 53 in Wrangell. Those votes will be counted on Monday.
Also, absentee ballots cast by Alaska voters from overseas will be accepted and counted until Wednesday, Fenumiai said.
A recount is likely unless one of the two Republicans manages to seize a substantial majority of the absentee and questioned ballot, spokesmen for both campaigns said. Going into the count, Young is ahead.
"We're cautiously optimistic," said Young spokesman Mike Anderson said. "That's the word we have stayed with."
Under state law, the state would pay the cost of a recount if the difference between the two is within five tenths of one percent of the votes cast for Young and Parnell.
In the meantime, the campaigns for Young and Parnell and Ethan Berkowitz, the Democrat who will face the Republican winner in November, are proceeding.
Anderson said Young flew to Seattle Wednesday, where he will attend a fundraiser for a relief fund set up for fishermen who are lost at sea and another for his campaign.
Parnell's campaign has sent out fundraising letters, has held an event in Fairbanks and is getting organized for the general election, Parnell said in an e-mail.
Both sides expect to have representatives present as the absentee and challenged ballots are counted.
Berkowitz spokesman David Shurtleff called the tight Republican race "a mixed blessing."
"The Republican side is still kind of a mess, but we'd still really like to know who we're facing in November."
Since the election, Berkowitz has been endorsed by the Alaska AFL-CIO, the state's largest labor organization.