The see-saw race for the District 34 House seat continued Monday when Democratic challenger Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins recaptured the lead, gaining 28 votes on Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines.
The Alaska Division of Elections counted 86 absentee ballots Monday morning, putting Kreiss-Tomkins at 4,110 votes and Thomas at 4,082. With about two dozen votes left to count, Kreiss-Tomkins said the “statistically sound margin” of his lead is enough to have him feeling good about a victory.
Of the 26 special absentee ballots received Monday but not yet counted, seven of those were invalidated Tuesday morning, Kreiss-Tomkins said. Four votes postmarked from outside the U.S. also came in Monday and Tuesday, bringing the current number of uncounted votes to 23.
Official absentee ballots postmarked from outside the U.S. have until Wednesday to arrive. Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said she doesn’t have a breakdown of how many of those ballots might still be unreturned. Kreiss-Tomkins said it’s “very much a faint trickle” at this point and anticipates one, maybe two, votes will arrive Wednesday.
“We think we’re going to split these 23 more or less. But even if we lost every single one...we couldn’t lose,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.
The unofficial results from Wednesday’s count will be reviewed by the State Review Board before the election is officially certified. Fenumiai said she expects the election to be certified on Friday.
Thomas said the results are disappointing, but not the end of the world.
“I’m 65 years old. I’ve had worse things happen to me in my life than losing an election. I’m not surprised, but I am. I think it’s going to hurt Southeast, but that’s what the people want, and I have to live with it...I’ve done a lot for the district, and I don’t think they’ll forget it,” Thomas said.
An automatic recount is initiated in the event of a tie. A recount can be requested and paid for at the state’s expense 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.
Thomas said he is considering requesting the recount in the event of an official loss.
“I’m thinking about it. I might do it just to see. What the heck,” he said.
If a recount results in a tie, a coin flip determines the winner. The House District 37 Democratic primary was decided by coin toss in 2006.