The number of uncounted votes in Alaska’s tightly fought U.S. Senate race grew by 21,000 between Wednesday and Friday — and more than 5,000 of those were votes that hadn’t been predicted in early accounts of the number of ballots outstanding. After election night on Tuesday, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich trailed Republican challenger Dan Sullivan by 8,000 votes, or 3.6 percent, and both campaigns have been closely watching as state elections officials collect additional ballots cast by mail, or at more than 200 so-called “absentee in-person voting locations” around the state, where people could vote early. More than 40,000 ballots will likely be counted starting Tuesday, though the number will probably climb even more before then. To win, Begich would have to reverse election night trends and win a substantial majority — though his allies have pointed out that in the count following Election Day in 2008, Begich overcame a 3,000 vote deficit to Republican Ted Stevens and ultimately won by 4,000 votes. The spike between Wednesday and Friday was a reflection of state elections officials’ new accounting for more than 13,000 provisional ballots, 2,200 absentee ballots submitted by fax, mail or email, and some 5,200 ballots cast early at the in-person absentee voting locations across the state.
Articles about voting issues in Alaska.
With a few candidates up and down the ticket unsure whether they won or lost, a lot of Alaskans are looking to the thousands of ballots that remain uncounted. Division of Elections chief Gail Fenumiai says it’s too early to say exactly how many ballots are outstanding. “Right now we have, in the offices within the state, 23,608 absentee and early votes that are eligible to be counted,” said at mid-day today. They are from voters who live throughout the state, not in any particular district. “The majority of them are from non-rural areas of the state, meaning Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, the Mat-Su area,” she said. Those are, if you will, the known unknowns. But there are thousands of other kinds of ballots to be added to the total. It’s not clear how many are in these other categories.
Some Americans who lined up at the ballot boxes on Tuesday may have wished for the convenience of online voting. But cybersecurity experts continue to argue that such systems would be vulnerable to vote tampering — warnings that did not stop Alaska from allowing voters to cast electronic ballots in a major election that had both a Senate seat and the governorship up for grabs. There was no evidence of tampering during the first use of Alaska’s online voting system in 2012. But cybersecurity experts have gone on the record as saying that hackers could easily compromise or alter online voting results without being detected. Alaska’s own election site includes a disclaimer about votes cast through online voting or by fax. “When returning the ballot through the secure online voting solution, your are voluntarily waiving your right to a secret ballot and are assuming the risk that a faulty transmission may occur,” according to Alaska’s Division of Elections website. Alaskans can vote online by filling out an electronic ballot through a web-based interface, saving the file as a PDF and then transmitting the ballot to their county elections department. But cybersecurity experts told The Intercept that Alaska’s online voting system — developed by Scytl, a Spanish-based company — could be compromised by hackers from anywhere in the world. One expert’s team spent just a day to figure out how to remotely change the results on supposedly locked PDFs without being detected.
Alaska: Hackers Could Decide Who Controls Congress Thanks to Alaska’s Terrible Internet Ballots | The Intercept
When Alaska voters go to the polls tomorrow to help decide whether the U.S. Senate will remain in Democratic control, thousands will do so electronically, using Alaska’s first-in-the-nation internet voting system. And according to the internet security experts, including the former top cybersecurity official for the Department of Homeland Security, that system is a security nightmare that threatens to put control of the U.S. Congress in the hands of foreign or domestic hackers. Any registered Alaska voter can obtain an electronic ballot, mark it on their computers using a web-based interface, save the ballot as a PDF, and return it to their county elections department through what the state calls “a dedicated secure data center behind a layer of redundant firewalls under constant physical and application monitoring to ensure the security of the system, voter privacy, and election integrity.” That sounds great, but even the state acknowledges in an online disclaimer that things could go awry, warning that “when returning the ballot through the secure online voting solution, your are voluntarily waving [sic] your right to a secret ballot and are assuming the risk that a faulty transmission may occur.”
The review of absentee and questioned ballots cast in Tuesday’s municipal election revealed a general sense of confusion among many Juneau voters. City and election officials tallied 1,447 additional ballots during a public review Friday at the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Chambers. The certified official results will be announced Oct. 14, after the remaining mail-in ballots trickle in. Election officials noted that counting machines continually rejected “over-voted” ballots in which too many candidates were chosen in a particular race. These errors disqualified that race on those ballots, though the rest of the correctly completed votes on the erroneous ballots were counted.
Translators are scrambling this week to meet a Friday deadline ordered by a federal judge to provide outreach and poll workers with election materials and voting information that have been translated into Yup’ik or Gwich’in. Gwich’in translators Allan Hayton and Marilyn Savage in Fairbanks are finding the work challenging, KUAC reported. “Some of it is very technical language, legal jargon,” Hayton said. But Hayton and Savage are up to the task, having translated other materials, including Shakespeare, according to Hayton. “Marilyn and I worked last year translating King Lear into Gwich’in, so we’re used to difficult challenges but we’re happy to do this.”
An Alaska Senate race has the potential to once again remain undecided well after the election, and this time the wait could keep control of the Senate up in the air until at least mid-November. December and January runoffs are possible in two other states with Senate races, so it could be even longer before either party can claim a majority of seats in the chamber in the next Congress. Senate Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take control. But the reason for the holdup in Alaska is, like the state itself, unique. In the Last Frontier State, the regular delay in races being called is largely a product of two confluent circumstances: close contests and an increased emphasis by campaigns on absentee voting, a get-out-the-vote method pushed to help compensate for the state’s travel and voting complications. The need to encourage absentees is a reality in one of the most topographically challenging states for campaigns in the country. Prop planes are often required for candidates to reach the state’s vast rural areas and even for timely travel between cities close in proximity but separated by mountains or water. And state officials running the election face similar logistical hurdles: All ballots are eventually transported by air to Juneau, a capital only accessible by boat or plane.
The plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the merged campaigns of two Alaska gubernatorial candidates will not appeal a judge’s ruling that an emergency order allowing the ticket was valid, he said Monday. Plaintiff Steve Strait said, however, that state lawmakers should enact a permanent regulation to address a legal “train wreck” — the label used by Superior Court Judge John Suddock in describing a gap in Alaska election statutes. Suddock sided with the state on Friday.
An Alaska Superior Court judge Friday morning denied a complaint brought by a Republican Party official that could have unraveled the “unity” ticket of gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker and his running mate, Byron Mallott. Steve Strait, an Anchorage district chair of the Alaska Republican Party, said he will decide over the weekend whether to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Judge John Suddock said the lieutenant governor and the Division of Elections acted appropriately when they issued an emergency regulation Sept. 2 allowing the merger of the “nonparty” ticket, though primary voters had previously chosen Mallott as the Democratic nominee for governor. In a lengthy explanation of his decision, Suddock said he was constrained by three decades of precedent, including a Supreme Court ruling, attorney general opinions, similar decisions by past lieutenant governors, and numerous Legislatures that had “OK’ed this kind of monkey business after the primary” by not creating a statute to address such situations.
A judge on Friday sided with the state of Alaska and ruled against a lawsuit that challenged the merged campaigns of two candidates in the governor’s race. Anchorage Superior Court Judge John Suddock ruled that an emergency order issued by Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell that allowed the merger was valid. The state argued that invalidating the order would leave the November election in shambles and disenfranchise voters, saying more than 2,400 overseas ballots have already been mailed out. “The people of the state of Alaska expect an election,” Suddock said after opposing sides had presented their oral arguments. “They expect to have a choice.” The lawsuit was filed last week by Steve Strait, an Alaska Republican Party district chair. Strait maintained Treadwell erred in his Sept. 2 order, which permitted candidates affected by the merger to officially withdraw from their respective races.