A count of absentee and questioned ballots from last week’s local election has created a near-tie between the top two vote-getters in the race for a borough Assembly seat. The new tally of votes conducted Tuesday shows only five votes separating Aaron Lojewski and Leah Berman Williams in the race for borough Assembly seat H.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough’s ballot-review board spent most of Tuesday afternoon tabulating nearly 4,000 absentee and questioned ballots cast during the Oct. 3rd local election. Borough Clerk Nanci Ashford-Bingham says that’s many more than are usually cast for off-year local elections.
“Our questioned-ballot numbers were definitely up a lot this year,” she said.
The absentee and questioned ballots shrank the margin of victory in the contest for Assembly seat H to just five votes, in a race that drew just over 18,000.
Berman told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner she’s considering her options on whether to request a recount in her race against Lojewski for the Assembly seat.
The addition of qualifying absentee and questioned ballots didn’t appreciably affect any of the other outcomes of the October 3rd election. But Ashford-Bingham says it did confirm that this year’s turnout was well above average for a local election in the borough.
“For the most part,” she said, “we have sixteen- to eighteen-thousand registered voters that would typically turn out and vote in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, when you look at an average here over the years, since 1989,”
More than 19,300 voters participated in the Oct. 3rd election. That’s just over 31 percent of the borough’s 69,000 registered voters. About 500 fewer voters participated in this year’s election than the record-high number that cast votes in the 1996 local election.
Ashford-Bingham says voters apparently were motivated this year by several contested borough Assembly and school board seats and three ballot measures – two to outlaw marijuana businesses in the city and the borough and another that would’ve authorized the city of Fairbanks to raise property taxes.
“We had twenty-three candidates on the borough ballot,” she said. “We had a non-areawide question, the marijuana question, on the borough ballot. The City of Fairbanks – I believe they had uncontested races, but they had their Prop A and Prop B.”
Fairbanks Councilmen Jerry Cleworth and David Pruhs were unchallenged in their bids for re-election, but 25 percent of the city's registered voters still turned out to reject Proposition A, the anti-commercial marijuana initiative, and Prop B, the property-tax measure. The absentee and questioned ballots slightly increased the margin of victory for Propositions 1 and A and of defeat for Prop B.
The additional ballots also increased Christopher Quist’s margin of victory over challenger Hank Bartos in the contest for borough Assembly Seat D. That race drew 19,387 votes – the most of any borough candidate.
Ashford-Bingham says the review board’s revised final election figures will remain unofficial until they’re certified by the Assembly.
Editor's note: The review of absentee and questioned ballots increased FNSB School Board Member Wendy Dominique's lead over challenger Jodi Rhoades to more than 1,100 votes. This story was revised to correct Dominique's margin of victory.