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Fairbanks questioned and early ballots to be counted

KEY RACES COULD BE DECIDED TODAY OR FRIDAY

In two close legislative races — District 1 Fairbanks and Senate Seat A Fairbanks — hundreds of early vote and questioned ballots have been sorted and are ready to be counted on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

The counting will take place at the Division of Elections office in Fairbanks starting at 2 pm.

District 1 and District 2 make are components of Senate Seat A.

While District 2 has been decided in favor of incumbent Rep. Steve Thompson, and will not be changed by outstanding ballots, District 1 has Republican Bart LeBon leading Democrat Kathryn Dodge by 79 votes.

Although unlikely, that outcome could change if ballots that are yet to be counted go counter to the trend of ballots already counted. If the race tightens, there could be a recount, but most election observers are confident that LeBon will ultimately win.

The Senate Seat A incumbent, Republican Pete Kelly, has a tighter race. Kelly has an 11-vote advantage over challenger Scott Kawasaki, who is vacating the District 1 House seat as he tries to unseat Kelly.

There are roughly 88 questioned votes to count in the District 1 part of Seat A. Kawasaki, who represents that district now in the Legislature, has carried those so far, 58-41. Therefore, if the trend continues, he could pick up as many as 30 ballots.

In District 2, there are roughly 26 questioned ballots to count, and Kawasaki might pick up 5 votes, based on how the ballots have performed so far. But overall, the gains look small for Kawasaki.

There are other votes to count that favor Kelly. Those are some of the early votes (the ones that were voted on in the Election Office itself, rather than at the precincts on the day of the election), and the absentee ballots, which are still arriving by mail. Some, from overseas locations, aren’t facing an arrival deadline until Nov. 21.

Absentee ballots break for Republicans typically. There are 495 in District 1, and 347 in District 2. If history is a guide, then about two-thirds of them will go for the Republicans in the race, which could wipe out the gains made by the questioned ballots.

Today, early ballots, questioned ballots, and some absentee ballots will be counted in Fairbanks. Those results will be known later today. On Friday, the absentee count will continue.

THE PROCESS IS PAINSTAKING

Last week, Democrat operatives swarmed the Division of Elections offices in Fairbanks during the process by which Election workers qualified the outstanding ballots and prepared them for today’s count.

Each candidate is entitled to have a person watching the verification process. Democrats staged people in the hallways of the Elections Division, and those operatives had computers and were looking up the names of people who the Democratic observers inside the Election room wanted to challenge. They were looking for Republican ballots to have thrown out. So far, none have been successfully challenged.

The Democrat observers have been aggressive, and some might say overbearing. Election workers are under intense scrutiny as they perform this work, with observers watching their every move and sometimes invading their personal space to do so.

Republicans also have observers watching the process, but in far smaller numbers. They are having to jockey for position so they can see the envelopes and check to make sure the details are correct — addresses must match and there must be a valid signature on the envelope.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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