More than 5,000 ballots still need to be counted in Anchorage's city election Tuesday, officials said, a situation that could affect several tight races, including South Anchorage Assembly, an Anchorage School Board seat and the school bond package.
Deputy city clerk Amanda Moser said Wednesday that elections officials had recorded about 2,000 of 3,300 absentee by-mail ballots sent out to voters. She also said a "significant" number of absentee in-person votes have yet to be counted, on top of questioned and special-needs ballots. Mailed in ballots had to be postmarked by Tuesday, election day.
More results will be posted later this week, likely starting Thursday, Moser said.
It wasn't immediately clear how much was at stake for the Assembly races. Moser said she didn't yet know the district breakdown for the absentee ballots.
Four of the Assembly contests — in Chugiak-Eagle River, West Anchorage, East Anchorage and Midtown — were decided by more than 1,000 votes. But in South Anchorage, the margin was slim. With all but absentee and questioned ballots counted, John Weddleton was leading Treg Taylor by 290 votes.
A Girdwood-only proposition authorizing a tax for police was even tighter. With absentee and questioned ballots still to be counted, the proposition was failing by just four votes.
At Election Central Tuesday night, Weddleton was upbeat, though he stopped short of declaring victory. On Wednesday, in a telephone interview, he sounded surprised to hear the number of remaining ballots.
"Yeah, that's a lot," Weddleton said. He added: "I haven't put my laurels on yet."
Taylor said Tuesday night that he was hoping the uncounted absentee ballots would flip the outcome. He was heavily favored in the absentee by-mail ballots counted so far.
Area-wide races could see a more substantial impact — by Wednesday, only 379 votes separated the two top candidates for Seat B on the school board.
Kay Schuster, a special education department chair with the Anchorage School District, led the that race with 12,654 votes. Starr Marsett, a real estate agent who serves on several school district committees, had 12,275 votes.
The divide between the "yes" and "no" votes for the school bond proposition was wider. By Wednesday, 1,024 more voters had rejected the proposition, which totaled nearly $49.3 million.
The bond would pay for new roofs and new surveillance cameras at Anchorage public schools. It would also pay for new school buses and energy upgrades, among a list of other projects.
Anchorage School District Superintendent Ed Graff said he didn't have much hope that the proposition would pass. He said the district would conduct a post-bond public opinion survey to better understand what went wrong.
"We're kind of seeing it as a no vote at this point and if it changes, great. We'll be pleased," he said.
Graff said a number of factors could have led to voters rejecting the proposition. It could have been the total dollar amount on the bond was too high, he said, or voter concern about the financial uncertainty in the state or the lack of state reimbursement for the bonds as occurred before the state lost billions in oil-tax revenue.
"They're all things we're looking at," he said.
Funding for school bonds took a turn last year when the Alaska Legislature voted to stop state reimbursement for five years, meaning taxpayers would have to take on the full debt. If the bond passed, taxes would increase by $32.58 for a property assessed at $300,000.
In the past four elections, voters have passed the school bonds. In 2011, they passed one of three school bonds. In 2010, the school district didn't put any bonds on the ballot.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing