By two votes, state Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, pulled ahead of Democratic challenger Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins of Sitka in the race for House District 34, following a count of absentee and questioned ballots Tuesday in Juneau.
The count eliminated a 44-vote lead Kreiss-Tomkins held last week. A final count of remaining ballots will be held Wednesday.
“I had a lot of trepidation about those (outstanding) ballots. In hindsight, (it was) well-placed trepidation,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. The hometowns and party affiliations of those requesting absentee ballots were available before the count, and Kreiss-Tomkins said he worried because Haines and Republicans were disproportionately represented.
Of ballots counted Tuesday, 981 went to Thomas and 936 went to Kreiss-Tomkins.
Absentee ballots will continue to come in to Juneau until Friday’s cut-off. Those ballots will be counted Monday. Absentee ballots submitted from outside the United States have until Wednesday to arrive.
Kreiss-Tomkins said 70 uncounted absentee ballots arrived in Juneau Tuesday, two of which will possibly be disqualified for not being postmarked on time.
“I don’t know which way those people are going to swing. They may be disproportionately Republican, which would be bad news for me, but good news for Bill,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.
Three questioned ballots from Port Alexander have yet to arrive in Juneau, and may be disqualified.
Another factor could be 42 special absentee ballots. Special absentee ballots are mailed starting 60 days prior to the election. Voters are also mailed the official ballot and are encouraged to return both. If both are received on time, only the official ballot is counted.
Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said 26 special absentee voters had not returned official ballots by Wednesday and their initial ballots will be counted if official ballots aren’t received by Friday or Wednesday. One of those special absentee voters is Kreiss-Tomkins’ mother.
Thomas said he is just waiting for the election result seesaw to land on one side. Even a victory in the race won’t undo the damage incurred from his unseating as House Finance Committee co-chair, he said.
“Even if I win, losing the co-chair is a big loss not only to me, but to the region and the district,” Thomas said.
Thomas said if he wins, he will retain a position on the committee. Kreiss-Tomkins said he would receive several committee assignments in the event of a win, but could not elaborate on the nature of those assignments.
According to Fenumiai, an automatic recount is initiated in the event of a tie. A recount can be requested and paid for at the state’s expensive if the difference in totals is less than one-half percent or 20 votes or less. The defeated candidate or 10 qualified voters can submit the request.
If the difference in totals is larger than one-half percent or 20 votes, the defeated candidate or 10 qualified voters can request a recount with a $2,000 deposit. If the original result is overturned, the deposit is refunded.
If a recount results in a tie, a coin flip determines the winner.