Alaska Senate primary down to absentee ballot count

Sandy Smith's picture

With less than 1,700 votes separating challenger Ted Miller and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the bitterly contested Alaska Republican Senate primary, the ultimate outcome hinges on the 15,272 absentee, questioned, and early ballots that are being counted starting today.

Murkowski, the daughter of former Sen. and Gov. Frank Murkowski and protege of the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), had been heavily favored to win re-election as the GOP candidate for a second full term, but backing from the tea party movement and a late-game endorsement by former Gov. Sarah Palin pushed Miller into the lead on Election Day.

Counting began this morning in Anchorage and Wasilla and begins this afternoon in Fairbanks and Juneau. A grand total of 25,510 ballots remained unaccounted for as of yesterday, and today's count could continue on Friday and Sept. 8 as ballots continue to arrive from remote locations.

In the days since Election Day, the rhetoric has turned bitter between the candidates, with Miller accusing Murkowski of trying to steal the election and Murkowski calling Miller paranoid and misleading in reply.

2010 Alaska primary mirrors another close contest

The 2010 Alaska primary for the GOP Senate nomination is the second time in recent years that a statewide election has hinged on the absentee ballot count. The 2008 contest for the state's other Senate seat went to Democrat Mark Begich, then mayor of Anchorage, after absentee ballots propelled him past the incumbent Stevens. Going into the absentee ballot count, Stevens led Begich by 3,257 votes.

Murkowski is counting on a similar result after the absentee ballot count is complete in order to hold onto her seat.

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