Number of outstanding ballots grows to 81,000

U.S. Senate and other races yet to be decided

Posted: Sunday, November 09, 2008

The state Elections Division said Friday 81,000 votes remain to be counted, mostly early votes but also absentee and questioned ballots.

That may be enough to swing as many as six state legislative races, and the number of votes is making the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Stevens and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich look increasingly close.

Stevens now leads by 3,257 votes out of 221,713.

Both Begich and House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, issued press releases saying it was too soon to decide their races.

Begich is hoping early votes will trend Democratic and give him a victory.

Numerous legislative races are only a few hundred votes apart, and Kerttula hopes her caucus will pick up more seats.

"We know we've already picked up seats in the House," she said. "If our candidates prevail in the outstanding races it would change the face of the House significantly."

Democrats have not yet announced their leadership, and will not do so until more races have been decided, Kerttula said.

Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, has already claimed victory, however, and announced that he will be the speaker in the next session.

Juneau may play a significant role in boosting Begich's chances. He outpaced other Democrats, including Rep. Andrea Doll in Mendenhall Valley and Barack Obama citywide. And 95 percent of Southeast's 1,066 yet-to-be-counted early ballots were cast in Juneau.

The largest amount of ballots remaining in Southeast are absentees, 15,826, and questioned ballots, 3,864.

The Alaska Democratic Party's Bethany Lesser said the amount of votes remaining to be counted in areas Begich won mean they are still optimistic Begich will win.

Elections Division officials say they expect the next count to be done Wednesday.

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