Alaska Senate, gov. races await thousands of absentee votes, could take weeks

Tens of thousands of votes remain uncounted in Alaska's Senate and governor's races.
By Gabrielle Levy  |  Nov. 5, 2014 at 10:24 AM
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- The final tallies on Alaska's hard-fought Senate and governor's races won't be in for several weeks, as tens of thousands of absentee and provisional ballots are counted.

Republican Dan Sullivan led Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, by 8,149 votes on Wednesday morning, holding onto a 48.74 percent to 45.13 percent lead.

At his election night party, Sullivan was buoyant, promising to be "respectful of the process" but cheering his party's substantial victories across the country.

"We're going to take back America, the land that we love," Sullivan said.

But Begich, who trailed by 3,000 votes on election night in 2008 before gaining 7,000 votes to win his seat, was not ready to concede defeat.

"I tell people, it's never over until the last counts of the last votes, and that includes bush Alaska," Begich told supporters.

"We've seen this play before," Begich said. "It's gonna be a long night. It might be a long week... I'll take a win however it comes."

The race for governor is even closer: independent Bill Walker leads Republican Gov. Sean Parnell by a mere 3,165 votes, 47.83 percent to 46.42 percent.

While more than 50,000 early and absentee votes were already submitted, at least 20,000 of those votes remained uncounted Tuesday evening.

And an additional 14,000 absentee ballots remain in the hands of voters: To account for large numbers of military, off-shore and remote in-state residents, Alaska accepts absentee ballots up to 10 days after the election, if postmarked within the U.S., and 15 days if postmarked outside the country.

An unspecified number of "questionable ballots," cast by people who voted at the wrong polling location, also remain uncounted.

Officials have until Nov. 19 to count votes.

Alaska's is one of three Senate seats that remains undecided. In Virginia, Democrat Mark Warner has hung onto a slim lead in his bid for re-election, but the race remains too close to call. And in Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., will face off in a Dec. 6 runoff.

But Republicans picked up more than enough seats Tuesday night to win a Senate majority, and will begin 2015 with at least 52 seats in the upper chamber.

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