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Monday Briefs December 8, 2008

Posted by roothogreport in Executive, Legislature.
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A few little items that didn’t really merit a post on their own:

  • The District 7 recount is scheduled for tomorrow.  Check here for news as it comes in.
  • The Sarah Palin clothing story resurfaced– the cost of the clothes is now up to $180,000, and the cost of her makeup was $110,000.  I really dislike this story- it feels so tabloid-ey. Even though I find the expenditure wasteful in the extreme and indicative of poor judgment, I’m not planning on bringing it up again unless someone brings charges or something.
  • A grand total of six Alaskans contributed to Obama’s transition fund.  One of them was my sister’s second grade teacher.  Alaska is a small place.
  • Ted Stevens has asked for a new trial in Alaska.  No clue if the request will be granted, but if it is, good luck finding an impartial jury here… at least that’s what Stevens is banking on, I’m sure.
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Ballots Will Be Hand-Counted In District 7 Recount November 28, 2008

Posted by roothogreport in Legislature.
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I got a call Wednesday afternoon from Shannyn Moore, a fellow Alaska political blogger who is particularly concerned with election accountability and transparency.  We talked about a few different twists and turns in this year’s election, and ended up talking most about the still-unresolved race between Mike Kelly (R) and Karl Kassel (D) in House District 7.

As you may remember, Kelly leads Kassel by a single vote.  This one-vote advantage had somehow been maintained through a variety of improbable circumstances, and Shannyn wanted to know if I had any insight as to what exactly was going on.  The Division of Elections had posted a press release on their website in an attempt to explain the state of the race, but the document wasn’t exactly easy to follow.

After talking with Shannyn, I decided to head down to the Division of Elections to see if someone there could explain it more clearly.  I ended up talking to Shelly Growden, the state Election Systems Manager.  She was able to shed a little more light on the subject- here’s the timeline she gave me:

  1. After almost all votes were counted, Mike Kelly had a one-vote lead over Karl Kassel.
  2. After the final 49 absentee ballots were counted, Karl Kassel had a two-vote lead over Kelly- a three-vote swing.
  3. After all the ballots were counted, election officials in Juneau went about verifying the number of ballots cast in District 7 precincts, and found that in two cases, the number of ballots cast did not match the number of signatures in the election book.  The State Ballot Review Board recounted the ballots in these precincts (Farmer’s Loop and Goldstream #1) and found that there was no actual discrepancy between the number of ballots and the number of signatures, meaning that a few ballots were improperly fed to the machines in the initial count and were either counted twice or not counted at all.  The net result of the State Review Board’s limited recount was that Kelly netted a three-vote gain on Kassel, thus shifting the race back to its original one-vote margin in Kelly’s favor.

We’re obviously headed for a recount in this race, and the somewhat questionable accuracy of the machines (what with the double-counting and undercounting in the two precincts in question) led me to ask Growden if the Division of Elections is planning to do a hand count of the ballots come recount time.  She reassured me that the ballots will be recounted both by machine and by hand, and that despite the hand counting taking a while, they expect the recount to be completed in one day.  Needless to say, I was very happy to hear that they’ll be doing a hand count.

She also said that the recount will likely take place on the 5th of December, as it has to be 30 days after the election itself.  Mark your calendars, because that might be the day this year’s election finally ends.

District 7 Thriller: Conflicting Reports November 25, 2008

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UPDATE 11/26 9:49 AM: Got word late last night that apparently the Dems jumped the gun- the totals DID have Kassel up 2, but then the Div. of Elections discovered a counting error in a couple of precincts that swung the totals back, by an odd coincidence, to +1 for Kelly.  So that’s that.
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The Alaska Division of Elections reports that with all ballots counted (including the final 49 absentee ballots from overseas), Mike Kelly (R) still holds a one-vote lead over Karl Kassel (D) in the race for House District 7.

The Interior Democrats, however, sent out an email today stating that, “With all votes in District 7 counted, Karl Kassel is up by 2 votes over incumbent Mike Kelly.”

Clearly someone is wrong here, and I wouldn’t bet heavily against the Division of Elections.  Either way, we’re headed for a recount.

District 7 Marathon: Done Before Christmas. Probably. November 21, 2008

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Apparently the final votes have come in for the Mike Kelly/Karl Kassel slugfest in House District 7.  Forty-nine overseas absentee ballots arrived by Wednesday’s deadline; those ballots will be counted Monday in Juneau.  After that happens, there will be a recount in December.  After the recount, the race will theoretically be over, providing that the losing party doesn’t entertain legal options in an effort to challenge the outcome.  I see that as unlikely.

Dermot Cole has the story and more details here.

Chilly, With 100% Chance Of Recount November 18, 2008

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 I went in to the state building this afternoon in Fairbanks to see if they were done counting ballots for the day (they were- in fact, from what I could tell they may have finished all of the Fairbanks area on Monday).  On my way in, I happened to run into Karl Kassel, who as you may recall is behind in his race against Mike Kelly by one vote.  I italicized there because it’s still difficult for me to believe that I would ever see a race decided by one vote, even locally.

In any case, Kassel said he’s, “Hanging in there,” and although he didn’t tell me what his business in the state building had been, I would bet you a box of uncounted ballots that he was looking into the official process to get a recount started.  

There will be more news on the District 7 House race before this is all over with- that’s a promise.

Alaska Is Different: Your Vote Counts November 14, 2008

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Division of Elections officials resumed counting ballots today, and trends with the ballots today largely followed the pattern established on Wednesday, with Mark Begich extending his lead to over 1,000 votes over Ted Stevens and leaders in other close races continuing to pad their margins.

There was one exception to the general lack of Friday drama, however…

In House District 7’s race, challenger Karl Kassel narrowed the gap between himself and Mike Kelly to… wait for it… ONE VOTE.  The count now stands at 4999 votes for Kassel, 5,000 votes for Kelly, and 36 write-ins.  If you ever wondered whether or not your vote could make a difference, look no further.

It’s important to note that it’s still possible for a few more absentee votes to trickle in before the Nov. 19 deadline, so the ending margin likely won’t be just one vote.  Also, no matter who is ahead after counting finishes, a recount appears inevitable.  Still, this race is a perfect example of exactly how important it is to perform your civic duty.