Alaska Winner May Not Be Known for Weeks

Posted August 27, 2008 at 7:44pm

It could take more than two weeks to determine whether Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) will have a chance to win an 19th term in Congress.

With just one precinct out of 438 yet to report Wednesday night, Young led Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell (R) by 152 votes in the Republican primary, or 45.5 percent to 45.3 percent of the vote. A third Republican, state Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, received 9.2 percent.

The GOP victor will face former state House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

But it may be weeks before the election is complete. According to Shelly Growden, an election system manager for Alaska, the state may take up to 15 days — though more likely 10 days — to count absentee and “questionable” ballots, otherwise known as provisional ballots. There are said to be about 4,000 absentee ballots that have yet to be counted.

After those ballots are counted, Growden said a state ballot review board will certify the winner by Sept. 17 or 18.

If the final difference between the two candidates is less than a half percentage point, a defeated candidate or 10 voters can petition a recount with the state footing the bill. If the difference between Parnell and Young is more than a half percentage point, a recount could be implemented at their own expense to the tune of about $15,000.

Growden said a recount could take three to five days, putting the final vote recount into late September.

In a conference call with reporters from his Fort Yukon home, Young said Wednesday that he intends to spend the next two weeks at work while the remaining ballots are counted. He said that after the absentee votes are counted, he expects to be ahead by one or two percentage points.

“The reality is that we’re ahead now, and we expect to be ahead when the absentee votes are in,” Young said.

Young, who is under federal investigation for a suspicious $10 million earmark that would benefit one of his donors, pointed out that he was down 25 points in the polls when Parnell announced last spring. As a result, he said, he considered his campaign to be successful.

“What I think we’ve done is a very successful job at making Alaskans understand that I’m good at what I do and I’m successful at what I do,” Young said.

Young also said it was unlikely that he would spend money on a recount if the losing margin was more than a half percentage point.

Though the leader in Tuesday’s primary switched back and forth over the course of a long election night, Young said he went to bed at 10 p.m. and told his staff not to call until the morning unless there was good news.

Parnell also expressed his frustration with the contest in a statement.

“After a long night of narrow margins and back and forth leads, the Republican race for Congress is, quite simply, still too close to call,” Parnell said.

However he also said he was confident that after the votes are counted, he would emerge victorious.

“It is in everybody’s best interest to get this resolved quickly,” Parnell said. “As we anxiously but patiently await the final count, we remain confident that once all the votes are counted, I will prevail in this race.”