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Why Alaska voters will have to wait at least a week for more results

Alaska's general election ballot is being challenged again in court.
Alaska's general election ballot is being challenged again in court.(KTUU)
Published: Nov. 4, 2020 at 6:41 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - More than 192,918 Alaska votes were counted on election night, according to the Alaska Division of Elections. But still, many more need to be tallied. Communications Director Tiffany Montemayor said an estimated 134,411 ballots will be counted on Nov. 10 a week after Election Day. The number is growing every day.

This year a record number of Alaskans cast their votes early. People concerned about COVID-19 were among more than 119,000 Alaskans who requested absentee ballots by mail. By the end of Wednesday, nearly 90,000 of those ballots had been returned, with more expected in the mail in the coming days.

Anchorage Regional Elections Supervisor Julie Husmann said every one of those ballots will need to be scrutinized. But much of the work can’t happen until after the polls close on election day. The Division of Elections needs information from hundreds of polling places around the state about who turned up to vote in person. Husmann said they need to make sure that someone hasn’t voted twice.

“Did they put a by-mail ballot in, and did they go to the precinct and vote also? So we want to eliminate any of those before we actually count them to get the results,” she said.

All of which takes time. Husmann said after the ballots are verified, they each have to be opened by hand, which includes taking them from their privacy sleeves and inner envelopes before they can be scanned and counted.

“That’s a process all in itself,” she noted. “When you are talking this kind of volume, it takes a lot more time.”

And while most of the ballots will be counted on Nov. 10, not all of them will be. Absentee ballots that were postmarked by election day will be accepted up until Nov. 13 and up till Nov. 18 if they were mailed from overseas.

Husmann said she wants Alaskans to know the system works, even if they have to wait.

“Because we know races have been won by a vote before,” she said.

She said the number of people hired to review ballots has also increased, and the counting will happen as quickly as it can.

correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the number of votes counted on election night, including early voting ballots through Oct. 29, is 192,918.

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