JUNEAU - Two state House races are still too close to call and Division of Elections officials are hand counting ballots from one precinct in each district.
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The vote tally from the Aug. 22 Democratic primary in House District 37 so far has resulted in a tie between incumbent Carl Moses of Unalaska and Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham. Each man has received 764 votes in the most competitive race in years for Moses, 77, who began his legislative career in 1965.
On the Kenai Peninsula, first-term Rep. Kurt Olson of Kenai is ahead of Dave Carey of Soldotna in the District 33 Republican primary by just 11 votes, 1,368 to 1,357.
Kelly Cyrus, the state's elections administration supervisor, said a precinct from each district was randomly selected to hand count ballots. In the Kenai race, it is a Soldotna precinct, and in the southwestern Alaska race, it is a Dillingham precinct.
"From there, we can figure out if there are irregularities or discrepancies. If so, the results are adjusted," Cyrus said.
If the difference between the hand count's vote total and the precinct's original results are greater than 1 percent, state law requires the Division of Elections to hand count all the ballots from that district. If there is any unexplained discrepancy in the vote totals from that precinct, Elections Director Whitney Brewster can order a hand count of the entire district.
The precincts' hand counts are expected to be finished this week. A review and audit of the entire primary election is to completed by Friday, Cyrus said. After that, Brewster will certify the results and publish the official results on the division's Web site.
If the Moses-Edgmon race is a tie, there will be an automatic recount of votes cast in the district. After that if it remains a tie, there will be a coin toss to determine the winner, Cyrus said.
Both Moses and Edgmon were in southwestern Alaska this week but keeping close tabs on the Division of Elections' progress.
"It's uncharted waters for us," Edgmon said. "We obviously didn't anticipate taking this route to get the election finalized."
Moses attributed the closeness of the race to the polarizing issue of whether to develop the Pebble copper and gold mine near Iliamna Lake. Moses is for it; Edgmon, a former legislative aide to Moses, is against it.
"All the Bristol Bay area is dead set against it. I could have taken the easy road and opposed it," Moses said. "I think it's good for the state to find out what is there."
Edgmon said the Pebble mine was a big issue in the campaign, but believes others voted for him because they want a representative who asks tough questions on that and other issues.
"To be silent on the issue is to not effectively represent the district," he said.