Alaska incumbent surges in close Republican primary race
By MARK THIESSEN
Aug. 29, 2018
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Dead and non-existent voters wound up not playing a role in a hotly contested Alaska House race after absentee votes pushed the incumbent Republican at odds with her party to a huge lead Tuesday.
After last week's primary, state Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux trailed political newcomer Aaron Weaver by three votes for the seat in the Legislature representing east Anchorage, even though Weaver did little to no campaigning.
When election officials counted absentee, questioned and early votes Tuesday, those broke 158-35 in LeDoux's favor. That gave her a 113-vote lead, 452-339, with the election to be certified Saturday.
She didn't attend the count Tuesday at the Division of Elections office in Anchorage. But her lawyer, Tom Amodio, immediately texted her the good news.
"She was relieved, quite relieved," Amodio said.
LeDoux entered the race without the support of the Alaska Republican Party, which branded her a turncoat because she caucused with the Democrats. The GOP targeted her for defeat.
"Normally we just suck it up and say, 'That's how they are, and the voters made a choice,' " Tuckerman Babcock, the chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, said of the election results. "In this case, everything is still on the table."
He said they will look at backing a write-in candidate in the general election, possibly Weaver.
"If that's where we have to go, we'll do that. But LeDoux is not a legitimate candidate," Babcock said.
In a statement after the votes were counted, LeDoux said: "I have never looked for ways to manufacture votes. In this day and age of voter verification, that would be absurd. "
"Any ballot irregularities were properly detected by the Division of Election. I would expect no less. The votes that have decided this election are, by the Division of Election's own standards, valid votes," LeDoux said.
Meanwhile, election officials confirmed that a complaint has been filed claiming Weaver doesn't live in the district.
"We're looking into it," elections spokeswoman Samantha Miller said in a text message to The Associated Press.
The phone rang unanswered Tuesday at a listing for an Aaron Weaver in Anchorage.
The absentee vote issue loomed large Monday in the tight race when state election officials said issues had been found with parts of the absentee voting process in the district. That included rejecting seven applications for absentee ballots after workers found that they had been made in the names of people believed to be dead.
Election officials said they always try to find voters whose ballots were returned. But election officials said more than 50 percent of the people they tried to contact in this district either no longer had working phones or did not answer.
When election workers did make contact, two people said they did not cast a ballot in this election, even though ballots had been submitted in their name. Those ballots were not counted.
By checking voter history and comparing signatures, election workers determined a vast majority of the absentee voters appeared to be legitimate. It was found that 26 absentee voters were determined to have authenticity issues.
Election workers first counted the legitimate ballots. They then counted the 26 ballots that have issues, and included them in the total to be verified on Saturday. If those were removed, LeDoux still has an 87-vote lead.
Those 26 ballots were kept with their original envelopes, which includes the voter's name and address, in case of a legal challenge.