Down on election night, incumbent Democrats pull ahead as Alaska begins counting by-mail ballots

(By Matt Buxton/TMS)

Note: This story is based off the results released by the Alaska Division of Elections at 5:40 p.m. on Nov. 10. A second release of results that covers an additional 12,000 ballots is expected sometime tonight here, but we won’t be hanging around for it. It’s already past our bedtime.

Five of the six incumbent Democratic state legislators who trailed Republican challengers on election night now hold narrow to overwhelming margins of victory after the Alaska’s first day of counting by-mail and other ballots.

The Alaska Division of Elections has counted nearly 50,000 additional ballots today, the first day of Alaska’s last-in-the-nation effort to count more than 155,000 questioned, early and absentee, which includes mail-in, ballots.

Today’s count only covered a handful of legislative districts in Anchorage, Fairbanks and the Mat-Su Valley and the count only covered by-mail ballots that arrived before election day or the day after.

[Full results from the Alaska Division of Elections]

Ballots that were postmarked on election day can be counted as long as they arrive by Friday. Some districts covered in today’s count have more than 1,000 ballots left to be counted.

On the statewide level, progressive candidates narrowed the election-night margins of about 30 points by an average of about 8 points. Biden now lags Trump by 19.7%, Al Gross trails U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan by 22% and Alyse Galvin trails U.S. Rep. Don Young by 18.2%.

The only statewide issue that’s on track to flip is Ballot Measure 2, which proposes a slate of election reforms aimed at opening the door to independent candidates. After trailing on election night by 13 percentage points, it now trails by 6.6%. If the current voting trends hold true for the remaining, it would narrowly pass.

Legislative races

On a legislative level, progressives can breathe a sigh of relief for incumbents who trailed on election day and see a few signs of hope in other competitive races.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, saw an 18-percentage point shift in his favor from election night and now holds a strong lead over Republican challenger Madeline Gaiser. Anchorage Democratic Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, whose district is one half of Wielechowski’s district, saw one of the biggest shifts in her favor with a whopping 21.6-point shift after trailing Republican challenger Paul Bauer by 9 points on election night.

It’s a similar outlook for the other incumbent Democrats who trailed on election night.

Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, went from trailing by 13 points to leading by 5. In Fairbanks, Rep. Grier Hopkins went from trailing by 7 to leading by 5. Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, is the closest of the bunch after making up a 9-point deficit set on election night against Republican Kevin McKinley. He now has a 2-point lead.

In all cases, the trend in absentee votes would have to change dramatically for Republicans to gain the leads in these seats. Wool, with the smallest lead, would have to get less than 43% of the remaining votes to lose. So far, he’s won nearly 65% of the outstanding votes.

The last incumbent Democrat to be trailing after election night is Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka. His district, House District 35, was not included in today’s count and he needs 51.2% of remaining votes to go in his favor to win re-election.

Two of the competitive races where Democrats could potentially gain legislative seats were included in today’s count: South Anchorage’s House District 25 and East Anchorage’s House District 15.

In House District 25, Democratic challenger Calvin Schrage is on pace to beat incumbent Republican Rep. Mel Gillis. Schrage has seen a 15-point shift from election night results, going from a 17-point deficit to just 2.3 votes. If the remaining votes, of which we estimate there are about 1,800 to be counted, go the same way as the votes covered in today’s count, he would win the race by nearly 400 votes.

Things are tight in House District 15 where Democrat Lyn Franks is on pace for a photo-finish against Republican David Neslon, who defeated the district’s incumbent Republican in the primary. Franks closed her 16-point election-night deficit by 12 points in the latest counting, putting her 146 votes behind Nelson.

According to our breakdown of the race, Franks took about 56.5% of today’s count. She’ll need to do slightly better with the remaining ballots, of which we estimate there are about 850 remaining, to win the race.

Other high-profile races that have the potential to flip from Republican to Democrat did not have a significant number of votes added to today’s count.  

Staring into the crystal ball

Here’s a breakdown of what we’re looking at as far as the margins needed for progressive candidates to make up their election-night deficits, how it’s gone with the latest results and how things will need to continue if they hope to win once the final votes are counted.

The remaining vote number is a ballpark that we’ve generated off the voter lists, which we’ve used to compile our partisan breakdowns of the votes, that have, at times, not matched precisely with other counts arrived by other methods. It’s best to consider this all a ballpark estimate.

It also doesn’t include any questioned ballots, of which there are nearly 10,000, because they are highly variable in whether they will come into play in the final count for legislative races.

A rough breakdown based on the 5:45 p.m. Nov. 10 count. Click to enlarge.

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1 Comment on "Down on election night, incumbent Democrats pull ahead as Alaska begins counting by-mail ballots"

  1. Great analysis, Matt. Thank you.

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