Thousands of absentee ballots are still not counted

Stevens, Stutes take an early lead with less than 20 percent of votes tabulated

Representative Louise Stutes and Senator Gary Stevens listen to public comments during a town hall in Cordova on Friday, April 12, 2019. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

It could be many days before Alaskans know the real winners in the cliffhanger general election of 2020, what with thousands and thousands of ballots still to be counted, and that doesn’t even include some 40,000 absentee ballots not yet returned.

As of Wednesday, Nov. 4 that meant in everything from legislative to congressional races, all sides were holding out hope for victory.

Still with less than 20 percent of the votes cast in their races, incumbents Sen. Gary Stevens and Rep. Louise Stutes, both Kodiak Republicans, appeared to have significant leads in their individual races for reelection. Stevens had 5,696 votes or 63.29 percent of ballots cast in Senate District P over challenger Greg Madden, with 3,279 votes or 36.43 percent, with all 23 precincts counted.

In House District 32, Stutes had 3,358 votes or 95.97 percent, compared with 141 votes, or 4.03 percent for unidentified write-in candidates, with all 14 precincts counted.

These numbers do not include thousands of absentee ballots still to be counted.

“I’m feeling pretty good about it,” Stevens said. “I think the message I was delivering got through to the voters.”

Stevens has expressed major concerns over pressure to give Alaskans $3,000 Permanent Fund Dividend checks. Drawing another $2 billion out of the Permanent Fund account at this time is just not possible without devastating services that the state provides, he said.

“Right now, it has been making about 8 percent interest,” Stevens said. “We can survive off the earnings of the Permanent Fund if we don’t overdraw.”

“It’s been a rough year for everybody and it’s going to be a rough couple of years (ahead), Stutes said. “I am looking forward to coming together as a House. Republicans, Democrats, independents, we have to find a way that we can all work together.”

“In order to get anything done, we are going to have to work together,” she said.

In congressional races the incumbents and challengers all remain optimistic, although incumbents Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young, both R-Alaska, hold a big lead in the tally of votes cast in-person before and on Election Day. Sullivan led with 114,944 votes or 64 percent over Gross with 56,399 votes or 31 percent. In the House. Young had 114,944 votes, or 64 percent, over Galvin, with 61,521 votes, or 35 percent.

Both ballots measures appeared to be facing defeat.

Ballot measure 1, an act relating to the oil and gas production tax, tax payments and tax credits, had 61,521 “yes” votes, compared to 115,123 “no” votes with half of the precincts reporting as of Nov. 4. Ballot Measure 2, an act replacing the political party primary with an open primary system and ranked choice general election, plus additional campaign finance disclosures, drew 100,816 “no” votes and 75,324 “yes” votes.

Alaska Division of Election officials said they will start counting on Tuesday the 87,782 absentee ballots received in the mail, plus 14,856 absentee-in-person ballots. They also still have to count however many of the 40,000 outstanding absentee ballots that were mailed out are returned within the deadline.

Anyone sending in absentee ballots from within the United States must return them by Nov. 13. Those mailing in ballots from overseas have a Nov. 18 deadline.

The target date for certifying the election is Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.