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Politics

Today's ballot recount could break tie in House District 1

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It has been 24 days since the statewide election, and voters in District 1, the area around downtown Fairbanks, still don’t know who is going to represent them in the Alaska Legislature. Republican Bart LeBon and Democrat Kathryn Dodge are tied at 2,661 votes each.

This morning the Alaska Division of Elections is re-counting all the ballots for House District 1, to break or confirm the tie. At 10:00 am today the ballots will be run again through scanning machines at the Division’s office in Juneau. The count may also include a ballot found outside a scanning machine at Fairbanks Precinct number 6, and a ballot marked with an X.

 

Yesterday a letter from Kathryn Dodge’s campaign law firm was delivered to the Division of Elections, requesting two outstanding ballots be put in today’s recount.

Patrick Munson, Dodge’s attorney did not return a phone call yesterday, but wrote in the letter that the Division should count a ballot from Fairbanks Precinct number 6, that was found in a secrecy sleeve where questioned ballots were placed on election day.

As of last night, the Division of Elections had not made a determination if they would count that Fairbanks 6 ballot, or if how the letter might affect the counting.

Division of Elections spokesperson, Samantha Miller says the campaigns may comment on the process like any citizen.

“We work very hard with the campaigns to make sure everybody understands the process. We do take their concerns very seriously. Any ballots they have questions about, we’re certainly willing to very carefully review them, to make sure that all ballots are counted accurately.”

Munson’s letter also asked that another ballot, one that was considered “overcounted,” and impermissible, be counted as one for Dodge. He describes “The voter who completed the ballot in question filled in the ovals next to both candidate Dodge and candidate LeBon, but also crossed out the filled-in oval next to candidate LeBon.”

Samantha Miller would not confirm that the Review Board was investigating any such ballot, nor explain where it came from, but did say the Board is looking at every possibility under the law.

“Everyone has been very dedicated to making sure that things are done by the book, with integrity, really committed to making sure this election is successful.”

Calls and text messages to Bart LeBon’s campaign about the Munson letter were not returned yesterday. But Miller says their concerns will be addressed at today’s recount.

 “We expect there to be observers for both candidates to be present during the recount, yes.”

And that’s about all who will get to watch the recount.

Miller says the small room is only big enough for the non-partisan Elections Review Board, and some official observers, no press.

However, reporters will be in an adjacent room and will try to provide live coverage.

After today’s count, the trailing side has up to five days to present a challenge. If the election remains tied, the Director of Elections then comes up with a way to choose the winner by lot – a coin flip or card draw.

Another reporter suggested our observing election night, seven-day, 10-day an 15-day counts, an audit, and now today’s recount, was like watching paint dry, but when you touch it, it’s still wet on your fingers.

360 North and KTOO will be reporting on the recount live with a video feed on the 360 North website, and KTOO’s YouTube channel and on Facebook.