JUNEAU, Alaska — Saturday marked the fifth day of ballot counting for state election officials to determine who will be Alaska's next U.S. senator: Sen. Lisa Murkowski or Republican candidate Joe Miller.
With 431 of 438 precincts’ write-in votes counted at the close of business Saturday, the state Division of Elections is crediting Murkowski with 97.49 percent of the write-in vote, while the Miller campaign is challenging 6,574 of those votes.
While the end is near for precinct ballot counting, with the absentee count still to come Murkowski’s campaign is sounding more confident than ever that she will win.
This far into the count, it's safe to say the ballot counters are getting the hang of it. When done sorting through ballots, a simple hand raised for the division’s director, Gail Fenumiai, will suffice -- unless you're election worker Isaac Keans.
“What I've got is, when I don't need anybody else except the director, then she can come check, then when she's done we get our numbers counted and then we get our next group of ballots,” Keans said.
While counting ballots day after day can get a little monotonous, the counters seem to be holding up.
Miller stopped by Saturday to thank his election observers. Even with more than 87 percent of the vote counted, he says he still wants to hear from absentee voters.
“We're still anxiously awaiting the results of those, I believe there were eight or nine thousand absentee ballots that are out there yet,” Miller said.
Miller says there will be no talk of concession until all votes come in.
“Obviously, if it’s completely impossible, we're not going to spend a lot of effort or time or energies, but I think it's important to respect those that are serving our country and wait for those ballots to come in before we call a race -- I think that's critical,” Miller said.
The Murkowski campaign took the latest numbers as a good sign.
“We're being credited with 98 percent, so it's a number that eventually -- the lead gets so great, I don't see how they could overcome it,” Murkowski campaign manager Kevin Sweeney said.
Sweeney says for Miller's team to stand a chance, it will have to do something drastic during the final vote counts.
“They're really going to have to start challenging large amounts of ballots to bring that number significantly down, and I think people would notice if they did that,” Sweeney said.
The state says it hopes to be done with precinct ballot counting by the end of Saturday. Questioned and absentee ballot counts are still to come.
Contact Jason Lamb at firstname.lastname@example.org