The outcome of two tight races for the Alaska Legislature hinge on the counting next Tuesday of thousands of outstanding absentee and questioned ballots from around the state.
Eleven votes separate Fairbanks Republican Sen. Pete Kelly, the incumbent president of the Alaska Senate, from his challenger, Democratic Rep. Scott Kawasaki. In Kawasaki's Fairbanks House district, Republican Barton LeBon has a 79-vote lead over Democrat Kathryn Dodge.
Neither Kawasaki nor Dodge has conceded the race. Even so, House Republicans appeared optimistic about LeBon's chances. The caucus moved quickly Wednesday to organize a new 21-member majority, with Rep. David Talerico of Healy as the speaker. Democrats protested the move was premature.
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No announcements came Thursday about how the Alaska Senate would be organized, with Kelly holding a thinner margin. Republicans appeared on track to keep majority control over the chamber, though the six Democratic senators released a joint statement calling for a bipartisan coalition.
Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the Division of Elections, said new results from absentee and questioned ballots won't be posted until Tuesday.
Meanwhile, elections officials were dealing with problems reporting results from nine precincts in Southeast Alaska, including in Sitka, Haines and Craig. Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, ran for re-election in that district against Republican Richard Wein.
Alaska's voting machines are notoriously old, but the problem was not equipment failure, Miller said.
"The machines did exactly what they were supposed to do," Miller said.
She said that coded paper that allows that machine to print out results stopped functioning, making it so tracking marks weren't read by the machines. The precincts had to mail in the memory cards, which were still arriving Thursday, Miller said. She said results would be posted as the memory cards showed up.
A 10th precinct, in Seldovia, was unable to report on election night, but those results have now been posted, Miller said.
As of Thursday evening, Kreiss-Tomkins had a comfortable 700 vote lead over Wein, with a little more than three-quarters of the vote counted.
That tally includes Sitka precincts, which were posted Thursday morning, Miller said.