Alaska House control fate remains unsettled with race tied

November 24, 2018
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This Sept. 13, 2012, photo shows Kathryn Dodge, a candidate for the Alaska House District 1 seat in Fairbanks, Alaska. Dodge, a Democrat, is tied with Republican Bart LeBon, and the race could go to a recount on Nov. 30, 2018, if officials decide to discard an absentee ballot that came in with no other supporting documentation to determine whether it was legally cast. (Sam Harrel/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A Fairbanks race that will decide control of the Alaska House of Representatives could be the subject of a recount after an audit of about 600 absentee ballots didn’t break a tie Friday.

Democrat Kathryn Dodge and Republican Bart LeBon both have 2,661 votes, a tally that didn’t change after Friday’s review in Juneau.

Election officials are also reviewing the legality of one ballot that has not been counted.

The ballot was enclosed in a secrecy sleeve, but there was no supporting documentation with it to determine whether it was legally cast. Officials didn’t immediately have a timetable when they would rule whether to count the ballot or discard it.

Dodge said she has not seen the ballot and doesn’t know who it was cast for.

LeBon wasn’t aware of this ballot, but he sees the race going to a recount whether or not it’s counted.

“I would be shocked if it didn’t,” he said by phone from Fairbanks. “One of us is going to pick up a vote, I would guess, and the other one will ask for a recount.”

The recount would be held Nov. 30. If the tie isn’t broken then, the winner will be chosen by lot, with the actual process — such as a coin flip — to be decided by Josie Bahnke, the state’s election director.

“I would say that what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t expect things to change much in a recount,” Dodge told The Associated Press by phone from Juneau, where she watched the audit.

She also has no preference on how a winner would be determined by lot if it come to that, but added with a laugh: “I prefer not to have to do that.”

The stakes are high in the outcome of this race: If LeBon wins, the GOP will have a majority in the 40-member body and put Republicans in control of both chambers and the governor’s office.

But if Dodge emerges as the winner, there will be a 20-20 tie, and the horse-trading will have to begin for one side to woo someone to secure a majority.

The House race is to replace Rep. Scott Kawasaki, a Fairbanks Democrat who gave up his seat to successfully challenge Senate President Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican.

The close contest between Dodge and LeBon has gone back and forth since the Nov. 6 election.

LeBon held a five-vote lead over Dodge until Wednesday, when Election Day ballots and those cast in early voting were audited. That process gave Dodge six additional votes and LeBon one.

LeBon said the way the week has unfolded, the discovery of the ballot in the secrecy sleeve doesn’t shock him. “And it would not surprise me if that vote was for Kathryn Dodge. That’s the way my last few days have gone,” he said.

Republicans had already claimed control of the House when it appeared LeBon was in the lead. That move, current House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, a Dillingham Democrat, warned was premature.

The division has targeted Monday to certify the election.

Update hourly