The election for the temporary seat for Congress just got a little more real for Democrat Mary Peltola of Bethel, once considered a long shot in the initial field of 48 candidates to replace the late Congressman Don Young through the end of his current term. As more votes are counted, the late arriving ballots have increased her lead over Sarah Palin and Nick Begich.
Begich lags 3 points behind Palin out of the 175,512 ballots counted. Palin lags 7.5 points behind Peltola.
The special election has had 190,296 votes cast so far, making it one of the highest turnouts in Alaska primary history. Just a few more votes are expected between now and Aug. 31, the cutoff for overseas and absentee ballots.
On Tuesday, the Division of Elections counted 21,199 ballots of the 35,983 uncounted ballots they had in hand. The next count will be on Thursday, the division said; it has about 14,784 ballots in hand to count as of Tuesday. Five precincts are still unaccounted for.
While the division has run the ballots through the tabulator, it has only counted the first votes on the ranked choice. The division does not have the information about where the second choices went. Once all the first votes are counted, the tabulation for the second votes will take place. With Nick Begich coming in third, his votes will be discarded and voters for Nick will have their second choices assigned to the remaining candidates. Currently, there’s no telling where those votes will go — Mary Peltola or Sarah Palin — or whether a majority of the Begich voters just chose to not mark anyone in second or third place.
After the election is certified, the division will release all of the second and third place votes for the three candidates on the special general election ballot. It won’t be until that information is released that the public will understand what all voters did with their ranked choice ballots.
Alaskans have not elected a Democrat for Congress since the first Nick Begich was elected in 1971. He died in a mysterious plane crash in 1972 and Republican Don Young was elected in a special election in 1973, and served until his death on a place on March 18, 2022.
Peltola has raised $379,087.93 since the start of her campaign on April 1, and spent $254,299.32. As of July 27, she had $124,788.61 cash on hand, which was more than what Palin had at the end of the reporting period. But her fortunes have likely changed with her solid showing in the special primary and general election, and her good placement in the regular primary, where she had a 36.1% showing in a field of 10 candidates, placing her far in front of Sarah Palin and Nick Begich.