Five incumbent Republican state legislators won another term on Thursday after state election officials continued to count absentee, early and questioned ballots on Thursday. State officials will begin counting absentee and questioned ballots for House District 36 at 9:30 a.m. on Friday.
Ballot Measure 2 flipped positions on Thursday and, as of Thursday evening, had 497 more affirmative votes than negative votes. The measure would implement ranked-choice voting in state elections and switch the state to an open primary system.
Support for Ballot Measure 2 had lagged behind opposition by more than 24,000 votes on election night, but that gap has steadily been closing since state election officials began counting absentee, early and questioned ballots. That lead is narrow, however, and could easily flip the other direction as more of the tens of thousands of uncounted votes are tallied. More than 300,000 votes total have been tallied both for and against the initiative.
The change in position for Ballot Measure 2 is representative of a larger trend among state absentee ballots. Absentee voting figures reported by the state Division of Elections on Wednesday and Thursday night are indicating that Alaska's statewide races will not be immune from the "blue shift" seen in other state elections this year. Absentee, early and questioned ballots counted so far in the state's elections have skewed more in favor of non-Republican candidates than ballots counted on Election Day.
For example, incumbent Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan got 66% of votes counted on Nov. 3, but only about 44% of absentee, early and questioned ballots counted so far have supported him. Likewise, incumbent Republican Rep. Don Young enjoyed a comfortable majority of the Election Day vote — about 63% — but only about 49% of ballots counted in recent days have supported another term for him.
Neither Sullivan nor Young appear highly likely to lose their reelection bids because of absentee ballots, but uncounted votes may yet decide the fate of another statewide issue.
The state did not tally any more absentee ballots in House District 35 on Thursday. Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, won reelection to his seat for that district on Wednesday night.
Southeast Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, won a decisive victory in the Nov. 3 election. By late Wednesday night, Stedman had gotten 10,424 more votes than his only registered opponent, Republican Michael Sheldon, with 4,890 ballots in Senate District R remaining uncounted. Sheldon ran as a write-in candidate for the race after failing to unseat Stedman in the Republican primary in August.
Stedman will join Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, in the Legislature in January, after Thursday's new vote totals put Stevens over the top. The two have worked together to secure more funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System in recent legislative sessions.
Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, will return to the Senate next year as well, after winning reelection on Thursday to represent Senate District L.
Three Republican representatives won races on Thursday:
• Ken McCarty, R-Eagle River, won the House District 13 race. He defeated incumbent Rep. Sharon Jackson in the state's Republican primary this year.
• Rep. Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage, won reelection in the House District 22 race.
• Rep. Tom McKay, R-Anchorage, won the House District 24 race on Thursday. He beat incumbent Rep. Chuck Kopp in the August Republican primary.
Three incumbent Democrats who at first lagged behind Republican challengers on Election Day pulled ahead on Wednesday with a boost from disproportionately Democratic absentee and questioned ballots.
Anchorage Reps. Ivy Spohnholz and Matt Claman won the District 16 and District 21 races after the state released absentee ballots on Wednesday. Fairbanks Rep. Grier Hopkins won his race on Wednesday to represent House District 4 as well.
Anchorage Republican Rep. Mel Gillis is poised to lose his seat to independent Calvin Schrage in the House District 25 race.
Other races in the state remained undecided as of Thursday night, most notably the race between incumbent Anchorage Republican and House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt and Democratic challenger Liz Snyder. Pruitt leads Snyder by 58 votes, with as many as 743 absentee, questioned and early ballots in that district yet to be counted.