In governor's race, Walker has edge -- or maybe not

If voting trends hold true in Alaska's 40 districts, gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker will keep his lead after nearly 24,000 absentee and early votes are counted starting Tuesday, according to an analysis of voting trends and districts.

But that's just part of the picture. There are likely gobs more votes to be counted beyond those, some of which have not yet arrived at the state Division of Elections.

On top of that, a political science professor with the University of Alaska Anchorage suggests the trends that favored Walker may not hold because an extra-large number of the uncounted ballots are from Republican voters.

We know this: Walker currently holds a 1.4 percent lead over Gov. Sean Parnell and is ahead by 3,165 votes out of about 225,000 cast.

On Tuesday, elections workers plan to begin counting 23,609 absentee and early ballots. That day they will also begin counting an unspecified number of questioned ballots. Elections workers on Thursday were beginning the process of logging and reviewing questioned ballots. In 2010, the last midterm election, 13,000 such ballots were cast.

As for the existing batch of absentee and early ballots to be counted, those have come from all over the state. But especially high numbers of them came from a handful of districts. During the election, some of those districts favored Parnell, some favored Walker.

If trends hold true in all 40 districts, Walker would receive 47.7 percent or 11,161 votes, while Parnell would receive 46.5 percent or 11,043 votes, according to an analysis by Alaska Public Media. The remainder would go to other candidates.


However, UAA professor Forrest Nabors says the analysis overlooks an important distinction: A disproportionately high number of Republicans are among the absentee and early voting ballots, which could help Parnell overcome his deficit if those voters overwhelmingly prefer Parnell.

"Parnell has a plausible path to victory," Nabors said. But, he cautioned, "it's very difficult to predict."

The absentee and early voting numbers also include a disproportionately high number of Democrats, though the skew is greater for Republicans. The majority of Alaskans are not registered with either of the two major parties, and more than 40 percent of the uncounted ballots are from nonpartisan voters and undeclared voters who could break either way.

Parnell said in a statement he remains confident the lead can switch.

Walker's campaign is optimistic, too.

"We are certainly encouraged by several analyses we've seen regarding absentee ballots and remain hopeful that we maintain our lead" after the final vote is counted, said Walker spokeswoman Lindsay Hobson.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.