The final results of the 2022 midterm elections have been trickling in over the past several days, but no winner has been declared yet in either major race in the energy-rich state of Alaska — and won’t be for some time.
Alaska election law requires officials to count all absentee and overseas ballots that arrive up to 15 days after the election. The state’s ranked-choice voting system — in which voters rank from their first preference to their last — also means determining a winner can require multiple rounds of counting until a candidate hits 50 percent.
A candidate must win a majority of first-place votes to win outright without the election going to a second round. If no one wins a majority, the candidate with the lowest number of first-place votes is eliminated, and their votes are redistributed to the remaining candidates according to their voters’ second preferences.
The process continues until one candidate wins a majority of the votes. Alaska adopted the ranked-choice system in 2020.
Since no one won a majority in Alaska’s Senate race, it will proceed to a second round to determine the winner. Alaska’s lone House race could wrap up in one round, but additional rounds might be necessary.
With the Senate race set to go to a second round and the House race possibly going to another round, the remaining absentee and overseas ballots to be counted could be crucial in determining the winners, either in the first round or subsequent ones.
Here’s where the Alaska House and Senate races stand:
At-large House race
Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola (D) has represented Alaska’s only congressional district since September after she won a special election to succeed Rep. Don Young (R), who held the seat for almost 50 years before his death in March.
Peltola defeated two Republicans, former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Nick Begich, the co-chairman of Young’s 2020 reelection campaign, to win the special election.
Peltola, Palin and Begich, along with Republican Tara Sweeney, advanced to the general election after receiving the most votes in a nonpartisan blanket primary, in which voters can vote for any candidate regardless of party registration. The primary occurred the same day as the special election.
Sweeney dropped out of the race soon after the primary, so Libertarian Chris Bye advanced to the general election.
With 80 percent of ballots counted in the general election, Peltola had a clear lead as of Friday with more than 47 percent of the vote, less than 3 points away from clinching the win. Palin was in second with 26.6 percent, and Begich was in third with 24.2 percent.
Peltola could be in a position to win the election in the first round and make additional rounds unnecessary. But whether she will prevail in the first round may not be clear until toward the end of the month.
Alaska’s Division of Elections website states that early votes submitted between the Friday before Election Day and Election Day will be counted seven days after Election Day, meaning this coming Tuesday. Early votes submitted prior to the Friday before Election Day were counted on election night.
Regional elections offices can start counting absentee ballots seven days after Election Day. All absentee ballots must be counted no later than 15 days after a general election.
Peltola could become the winner after the votes are finished being tabulated, which must happen by Nov. 23, one day before Thanksgiving.
If additional rounds are needed, they will happen on the 15th day after the election at the elections division director’s office in Juneau.
Peltola will likely have a large lead at the end of the first round even if she doesn’t clinch victory, so her opponents would need to receive an overwhelming majority of second-place votes to stay in contention to win the race.
Peltola won the endorsements of former Rep. Young’s daughters and a former Young staffer cut an advertisement for the Democrat, who is already the first Native Alaskan to serve in the House.
She has said she wants to win House passage of changes to a fisheries law that had been championed by Young.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Republican Kelly Tshibaka are set to face off in the final round of the Senate race after no candidate won a majority of the votes in the first round.
Tshibaka had a small lead over Murkowski by about 1.4 percentage points with 80 percent of votes counted. As of Friday, Tshibaka won 44.2 percent of the vote and Murkowski won 42.8 percent.
However, Murkowski allies expect the ranked-choice system to ultimately benefit the incumbent and push her to the top in the final round.
Tshibaka, Murkowski, Democrat Pat Chesbro and Republican Buzz Kelley advanced to the general election after winning the most votes in the nonpartisan, blanket primary in August. Kelley dropped out of the race in September and endorsed Tshibaka but remained on the ballot.
Chesbro had less than 10 percent of the vote, while Kelley won about 3 percent as of Friday.
Tshibaka, who served as the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration from 2019 to 2021, received the endorsement of the Alaska Republican Party and former President Trump. Murkowski has been criticized by her own party and the former president for voting to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial over his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
The process for determining the winner of the Senate race will be the same as for the House race. The winner could be decided by whichever candidate voters for Chesbro preferred between Murkowski and Tshibaka.
Updated: 10:09 a.m. on Nov. 15