30 percent of Alaska ballots waiting to be counted

By Dan Joling

Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A week after Election Day, about 30 percent of the Alaska votes that will decide the fate of convicted U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens haven’t been counted.

The Alaska Division of Elections expects to count most of the roughly 90,000 early, absentee ballots or questioned ballots remaining on Wednesday.

Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in Senate history, leads Democrat Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage, by 3,257 votes. Stevens has said he will appeal his conviction last month of seven felonies that he lied on financial disclosure forms.


Alaska always has a lag in counting absentee votes because far-flung communities and sometimes erratic mail delivery mean ballots trickle in for several days, elections director Gail Fenumiai says.

"It’s not really taking any longer," Fenumiai said.

But the division is taking extra care with ballots from the general election after more than two dozen people voted twice in the August primary. Most of them voted absentee and at their polling place.

So workers have been busy matching names on outstanding ballots to polling-place rolls from Election Day, when voters were required to show identification and sign in, Fenumiai said.

That work had been completed in 32 of Alaska’s 40 election districts, including the state’s population centers: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, the Kenai Peninsula and Gov. Sarah Palin’s home territory, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which includes Wasilla and Palmer.

Early this week, the elections office was waiting for precinct rolls to arrive from parts of rural Alaska, including the southeast panhandle, Kodiak Island and other areas off the highway system such as western and northern Alaska.

The most remote areas do not have daily mail service, which slows the process, Fenumiai said.

More than 224,000 votes were cast on Election Day.


Of the uncounted ballots, about 61,000 are absentee votes, with about 20,000 questioned ballots and 9,500 early votes. Questioned ballots include votes people cast on Election Day somewhere other than their designated polling place.

She said another batch of votes could be counted Friday.

Also undecided is the U.S. House race, where incumbent Republican Don Young holds a lead of nearly 17,000 votes over Democrat Ethan Berkowitz.

Absentee ballots, which continue to arrive in the mail, had to be postmarked by Election Day but could arrive up to 15 days after the election if sent from outside the country.

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