The Alaska Division of Elections will conduct recounts in two legislative races after candidates in the respective races requested them. But while one recount could have significant implications for the makeup of the Legislature, the other is unlikely to change the outcome of the race.
In House District 15, which covers the Sand Lake and Campbell Lake neighborhoods of Anchorage, Democrat Denny Wells has requested a recount after coming in seven votes behind Republican incumbent Rep. Tom McKay after a ranked choice voting tabulation. Wells had 46.6% of first-choice votes, McKay had 39% and fellow Republican David Eibek had 14.3%. After the tabulation, McKay emerged ahead of Wells by just 0.1%.
In Senate District E, which covers South Anchorage, Democrat Roselynn Cacy has requested a recount after coming in last in a three-way race won by Republican Cathy Giessel. Cacy received 31 fewer first-choice votes than Republican incumbent Sen. Roger Holland, who came in second in the race. Ultimately, Giessel beat Holland after a ranked choice tabulation in a 57%-43% split.
In both races, Division of Elections officials have said the cost of the recount will be covered by the state because of the close margins. Under Alaska law, in races with a margin of less than 20 votes or less than 0.5%, the candidate who requests a recount will not incur any costs from the state to cover the cost of the recount.
“These thresholds are established because even though our election processes are mindful of accuracy and security, machines have error rates and humans are imperfect,” Wells’ campaign said in a statement Monday. “In this race, even if our ballot counting process is 99.9% accurate, this vote count margin is still within the margin of error.”
McKay, who is currently leading Wells, said he has “full confidence in (Division of Elections Director) Gail Fenumiai and her team to properly conduct this recount.” He said he does not expect it to reverse the outcome of the race based on previous recounts.
Election results were certified late last month, opening a brief window in which candidates can request recounts in their respective races. Officials said they will conduct the recounts by scanning ballots using voting machines and hand counting one precinct from each district. The ballot measure approved by voters that overhauled Alaska’s election laws in 2020 did not include any provisions changing the recount procedures.
In House District 15, if the recount flips the outcome of the race, that could change the balance of power in the state House, which has yet to form a majority.
Under the current tally, 21 out of 40 seats were won by Republicans, but disagreements between members of the party have so far prevented them from forming a majority. A flip of one of those seats from red to blue could give a slight edge to the Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans looking to form a bipartisan coalition.
Two ongoing lawsuits challenging the candidacies of a Democrat and Republican who won their respective seats have also delayed the formation of a House majority, and McKay called the recount in his race “a minor factor” in the House organization process.
In Senate District E, the recount likely will not change the outcome of the election. Cacy, the Democrat who filed the recount request, said she did so to ensure the state has policies in place to adjudicate close race outcomes under ranked choice voting, which was first implemented this year, even if Giessel retains control of the seat.
“There needs to be transparency,” Cacy said in an interview after she filed the recount request Monday, which was the deadline for candidates to submit such requests.
The Senate District E recount will take place Wednesday. The House District 15 recount will take place Thursday. Officials hope to complete the recount processes by the end of the week.