ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The state Division of Elections won't start counting absentee or write-in ballots until next week -- but with 100 percent of precincts reporting, the returns offer a closer look at which U.S. Senate candidates won certain parts of the state.
In the three-way race between Republican Joe Miller, Democrat Scott McAdams and write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski, write-in candidates won in 26 of Alaska’s 40 state House districts.
“There are write-ins in a lot of elections, but not to this magnitude,” said University of Alaska Anchorage political science professor Carl Shepro.
“I personally thought all along that the obstacle, or apparent obstacle, became an urban myth that you can't win a write in -- normally it's not the process, it's the candidate that can't,” said pollster Dave Dittman.
Pollsters expect Murkowski’s name to be written on about 99 percent of the Senate race’s 83,000 write-in ballots.
“The write-in won Bethel, just about everywhere in the rural areas, in Joe Miller's home district and Sitka -- it was just statewide,” Dittman said.
Overall, write-in candidates took 41 percent of the vote, while Miller had 34 percent and McAdams had 24 percent. Miller picked up support in the Interior, where he's from, and also in conservative hot spots, winning 11 House districts.
“He did well in Mat-Su, predictably enough won by nearly 20 points there,” said pollster Ivan Moore. “Did very well in Kenai Peninsula as well, won by 15 points there, but what was interesting was in Fairbanks, he only won by five points there.”
McAdams picked up three House districts.
“He won in District 3, which is downtown Juneau; he did not win in Sitka,” Moore said. “He won in District 23, which is Downtown Anchorage, and he won in Homer.”
Write-in candidates won every Anchorage district except Downtown -- but it was rural Alaska that gave the write-in total an edge.
“Write-in lead overall is 13,000, and the lead in those rural districts alone is 8,000,” Moore said. “So all but 5,000 of that lead -- i.e., most of it -- is because of rural Alaska.”
Murkowski campaigned hard in rural Alaska, but even with all the added campaigning the Bush didn't see an increase in voter turnout, registering the same percentage of voter turnout it did in 2006.
The boost comes from the fact that in some precincts like Toksook Bay, Scammon Bay and Stebbins, upwards of 70 percent of voters chose to write in their chosen candidate's name.
“The lead would be a lot smaller and in much more doubt as to whether she would actually end up winning, so rural vote was key,” Moore said.
“I think that she had a lot of things going for her that you won't find in most write-in campaigns, and if she does win that will be certainly what carries her, is the fact that the level of support that she had plus the money,” Shepro said.
The Division of Elections won't begin counting write-in ballots until Wednesday, but analysts of Alaska’s political map agree that Murkowski has probably won re-election.
According to the division, about 42 percent of registered voters turned out for this election, not counting questioned and absentee ballots.
Officials say they currently have 30,500 absentee ballots and 12,000 questioned ballots, although that number is expected to change in the coming days.
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