Landmark election initiative takes lead in latest count, Gross and Galvin concede

Alaskans for Better Elections turn in signatures for the election reform initiative on Jan. 9, 2020. (Photo by Matt Buxton/TMS)

Ballot Measure 2, a landmark election reform initiative that would implement ranked-choice voting, open primaries and oversight on dark money in candidate races, is now narrowly passing after the latest count.

The initiative, also known as Alaskans for Better Elections, is currently passing by a razor-thin 497-vote margin out of 313,485 votes that have been counted on the measure, a margin of 0.17%. The measure has performed well with progressive-leaning absentee ballots that the state began counting on Tuesday.

According to our analysis of the results, the measure has so far secured 59.67% of the more than 130,000 ballots counted since Tuesday. There are nearly 38,000 ballots remaining to be counted today and early next week. If the trend holds for the remaining votes, we expect the measure to pass with a roughly 6,000-vote margin.

The outlook for Ballot Measure 2. If the line ultimately hits the wall once all ballots are counted, the measure passes. (Numbers by Matt Buxton, chart by Pat Race)

Today is the final day for by-mail ballots that were postmarked on election day within the United States to arrive and be counted.

In the statewide races, it has become mathematically impossible for Democratic candidates to win.

Democrat-backed independent candidate Al Gross announced that he had conceded his race to Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan this morning. The race was the most expensive in the state’s history with massive contributions to the candidates and independent expenditures.

“I’m incredibly proud of the campaign we ran,” Gross said in a prepared statement. “We were the underdogs from the start, but we ran a strong campaign and raised important issues that deserved to be heard. I want to thank my family, all of our supporters, our volunteers and our staff for their hard work over the course of this campaign and this vote counting process. I could never have made it without them.

We’ve seen no announcement from Democratic congressional candidate Alyse Galvin, who currently trails by 31,248 votes with an estimated 28,928 remaining. Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young announced yesterday that he has tested positive for covid-19, which he mocked in the early days of the pandemic.

Update: Galvin has since conceded.

Outstanding legislative races

There are several legislative races that are too close to call: Anchorage’s House Districts 15, 27 and 28 as well as the North Slope’s House District 40. In all those races, Republicans’ big election-night leads have diminished greatly with the counting of outstanding ballots, but none have yet to flip to Democratic leads at this point. There are about 500 to 850 ballots outstanding in each race.

If the trends from the already-tallied ballots continues, we would expect narrow victories in House District 27—Democrat Liz Snyder over Republican Rep. Lance Pruitt—and House District 40—Democrat Elizabeth Niiqsik Ferguson over Republican-aligned independent Josiah Aullaqsruaq Patkotak.

The outlook for House District 27. If the line ultimately hits the wall once all ballots are counted, the Snyder wins. (Numbers by Matt Buxton, chart by Pat Race)
The outlook for House District 40. If the line ultimately hits the wall once all ballots are counted, the Ferguson wins. (Numbers by Matt Buxton, chart by Pat Race)

Despite strong performances with counted outstanding ballots by Democratic candidates Lyn Franks in House District 15 and Suzanne LaFrance in House District 28, they will need to do even better in the remaining ballots to win. Franks would need at least 61.7% of the roughly 500 outstanding ballots (she’s got 56.3% so far) and LaFrance would need at least 75.8% of the remaining 816 ballots (she’s got 61.63% so far).

Already, Democrats have flipped one seat from Republican control in House District 25’s race between Democrat-backed independent Calvin Schrage and incumbent Republican Rep. Mel Gillis. Schrage has a 369-vote margin with 558 remaining votes, all but guaranteeing a victory here.

Why it matters

Republicans came into the 2020 election hoping for not just expanded numbers in the Legislature but a more party-line group of legislators. Their shot at a more obedient Legislature was largely erased in the primary election after the party’s efforts to eject its most conservative members came up short and now it looks likely to not just fail to expand its grasp on the House but is on pace to lose ground.

If only Schrage’s victory holds, Republicans an even 20 votes in the House (counting conservative-leaning independent Patkotak but not Kodiak Republican Rep. Louise Stutes, who has largely bucked fellow Republicans to align herself with Bush legislators). Such an outcome could make for potentially lucrative deal-making as both sides attempt to pick off legislators to form a majority and elect a speaker.

[Republicans’ shot at an expanded House majority vanishes with absentee counts]

The House went a month without a majority after the 2018 election left Republicans with a 21-member party-line majority that soon came crumbling down as moderates refused to rely on the group’s far-right members and ultimately formed a moderate coalition with Democrats and independents.

If one other Democrat or Democrat-aligned independent wins, Democrats and allies would be able to put together a 21-member majority of their own.  

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