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Alaska Legislature

'Unusual’ ballot to be analyzed as officials certify critical Fairbanks House race as tied

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: November 26, 2018
  • Published November 26, 2018

JUNEAU — They’re all tied up — at least until Friday.

On Tuesday, the Alaska Division of Elections closed its books on the 2018 general election, certifying races across the state with the signature of division director Josie Bahnke. Among the certified races is the one for House District 1, which officially ends in a tie: 2,661 votes for Republican Bart LeBon, 2,661 for Democratic candidate Kathryn Dodge.

At stake may be control of the Alaska House of Representatives. If LeBon wins, aligned Republicans will control 21 seats in the House, enough for a majority of the 40-person body. If Dodge wins, the House’s former coalition majority will control 20 seats, denying either group a majority, pending defections from one side or the other.

The situation may be resolved Friday, when elections officials will convene in Juneau to re-count all of the ballots from the House District 1 race. The ballots for the race have already been machine counted, and then were hand-counted once the closeness of the contest became clear.

A single ballot remains uncounted, pending further legal analysis. That ballot was found in a gray secrecy sleeve on election night and was deposited in a ballot box normally used for absentee and questioned ballots.

State Review Board ballot examiner Stuart Sliter is puzzled Friday by a loose House District 1 absentee ballot found without an envelope. (James Brooks / ADN)

Those ballots are normally accompanied by supplementary material that allows elections officials to determine if an absentee voter is legally allowed to cast a ballot. In this case, there was no such material. Instead, precinct workers noted 366 signatures in their voter register — but only 365 ballots were cast in the precinct.

The ballot in the secrecy sleeve could be that 366th vote, or it could be something else.

“We’re presuming it’s a regular ballot that somehow got in this secrecy sleeve, because then our numbers would match,” said Stuart Sliter, one of two members of the division’s State Review Board who examined the ballots.

She later added that there’s no way to know for certain.

“A lot of this is just presumption,” she said.

The only thing known for certain is that the ballot is one for Dodge.

If Friday’s recount again results in a tie, the two sides will have five days to file a challenge (if they so wish) in Alaska Superior Court. If they don’t challenge the result in court, the two may decide the race by drawing slips of paper, cards or — as in a 2006 state primary — flipping a coin.

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