Elections officials worked a partial day Sunday counting write-in ballots, but Lisa Murkowski's race to overtake Joe Miller's election-night lead closed to within 2,000 votes.
Murkwoski is so far garnering votes from more than 97 percent of absentee ballots, a rate that has varied only a few tenths of a percent since counting began Wednesday.
With less than 10,000 write-in votes left to be counted, Murkowski is on pace to exceed Miller's total by several thousand votes.
Miller elections observers are continuing to challenge Murkowski votes, but most of those challenges are being overruled by Elections Director Gail Fenumiai.
Sunday, Miller's teams challenged 666 ballots out of 4,963 reviewed. Fenumiai determined that eight out of 10 of the challenged ballots were valid votes for Murkowski, but the challenged votes were segregated in the event a judge wants to review them after hearing Miller's court challenge.
Twenty percent of the challenges were upheld by Fenumiai, and those votes were not included in Murkowski's growing total. However, Murkowski has election observers challenging discarded votes, including ones where the oval on the ballot was not filled in. Those are also being segregated in case Murkowski can convince a judge they should be reviewed and counted.
The questioned votes from voters, who, for example, voted in the wrong precinct, and early votes are now done, Fenumiai said.
"Tomorrow, we plan to start with absentees," she said Sunday evening of the staff at the Thane Road work location.
Ballots from four House districts remain to be counted and will be shipped to Juneau today. But the ballots may not arrive in time to be counted today.
In regional elections offices, including Juneau, Anchorage, Nome and Wasilla, the last absentee ballots will be counted today. Fenumiai estimated about 8,600 of those remain.
Final results should be known by mid-week, she said.
"I'm hoping Wednesday, maybe Thursday" for final numbers, Fenumiai said.
Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@ juneauempire.com.
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