Wednesday, November 12, 2008

After First Wave Of Absentee Ballots Counted, Democrat Mark Begich Takes An 814-Vote Lead Over Alaska Republican U.S. Senator Ted Stevens

Although the Alaska Division of Elections still has thousands more absentee and questioned ballots to count through next week, the first count of absentee ballots on November 12th show that Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Begich has reversed a 3,257-vote Election Night deficit and has now taken a 814-vote lead over incumbent Republican Ted Stevens, 132,196 to 131,382. Both sides speculate that early voting may be responsible for the turnaround; early votes weren't counted on Election Night to ensure no one voted twice. Full stories published by the Anchorage Daily News, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, and KTUU Channel 2. KTUU news video embedded below:



The new numbers, representing 59,000 absentee ballots counted on November 12th, are mostly in-state ballots from all over the state. In contrast, most of the additional estimated 31,000 absentee ballots to be counted during the next seven days will be overseas ballots. Many of these will be from military personnel serving outside the state, which is expected to benefit Stevens, a perspective shared by Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich. In addition, questioned ballots will be counted. The process is expected to be finished on November 19th.

So the outcome is still up in the air, which is why neither side is claiming victory or conceding defeat. “I’ve always said that this would be a close race,” Begich said in a statement. “I’m confident that Alaskans, like the rest of the country, want a new direction in Washington, and ultimately that will be reflected in the results”. Meanwhile, the Stevens’ campaign did not immediately return a call seeking comment; Ted Stevens is back in Washington preparing for the Congressional lame duck session. Stevens will be dealing with a possible move by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) to expel him from the Republican Conference and strip him of all committee assignments.

See this Daily News graphic for a geographical breakdown of the votes in the Senate race. Stevens' strength lies primarily in South Central Alaska, the Copper River Valley, and Fairbanks.

Begich would be the first Democrat to win a Senate race in Alaska since Mike Gravel was elected in 1974, and a win would put his party one step closer to a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate. Democrats are also trying to unseat Republicans in unresolved contests in Georgia and Minnesota.

If the results remain close, a recount is possible. In Alaska, the losing candidate or a collection of 10 voters has three days to petition for a recount unless the vote was a tie, in which case it would be automatic. If the difference between the candidates is 0.5 percent of the total votes cast, the state pays for the recount, to be started within three days of the recount petition. The Division of Elections would have 10 days to complete the recount.

Meanwhile, the absentee count showed that the eight-point gap between Don Young and Ethan Berkowitz closed up to six points, but it seems mathematically unlikely that Berkowitz can come all the way back, and so the Associated Press officially declared Don Young the winner of that race. However, Ethan Berkowitz refuses to concede yet, since there remain so many absentee votes to be counted. Amazing - when this all started, I thought we would lose Young and keep Stevens.

1 comment:

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