Mark Begich is down only just over 3,300 votes, with up to 60,000 absentee / early votes out, and around 6,000 provisional ballots. Based on the total turnout from last night, it appears that up to 20 percent of the total vote has not been counted. We are waiting for the House District and Precinct totals from the Division of Elections to determine where the outstanding votes are from, but I will send along our analysis as soon as we receive the data.
We ran an aggressive campaign statewide to bring out early and absentee voters. At the University yesterday, we had volunteers helping to get out the vote with good results, and those are considered absentee ballots. There have been long lines for weeks at City Hall and other early voting locations which haven’t been counted yet, including votes from this past weekend. Many Alaska Natives voted in Anchorage during AFN, which will be included in the absentee ballots. Begich did very well in the Bush yesterday, and we expect that trend to continue in the absentee and early votes.
How Remaining Votes Will Be Counted:
The Alaska statute says that all votes are to be counted within ten days of the election, but we are clarifying whether or not that includes weekends. At the latest, we expect the count to be completed no later than November 21 based on the 10-day review statute previously mentioned. Ballots had to be postmarked yesterday (Election Day). The 10 day waiting period was put in place to ensure that all votes in Alaska are counted. With the makeup of the state, the 10 day period ensures the maximum number of Alaska votes to be counted.
We are still waiting for final counts from the Department of Elections. As we understand it, people who voted absentee, absentee in person, and some portion of the early vote was not counted last night. Each regional department of elections had a different cut-off date for the counting of early votes on election night.
Secondly, Mark Begich is waiting because Diane Benson wasn't running once again for the AK-AL U.S. House seat, representing the Alaska Democratic Party. Progressive Alaska wrote about this several times in early 2008, here, and at Down With Tyranny! and at DailyKos. I had hoped my predictions would be wrong. They weren't.
Had Diane Benson been on the November ticket, the non-Anchorage numbers she brought to the Democrats in 2006, and in the 2008 primary election would have been there in the 2008 general election for her, and for Begich. They weren't, from what I've been able to glean. Berkowitz drew - so far - just over 6,000 less votes than did Begich yesterday. I believe Benson would have pulled more votes than did Berkowitz, across party lines, and the same number of Democrats as did Berkowitz.
Benson, running as a female who has challenged her own party, wouldn't have had to remain neutered, as was Berkowitz, during late September and October, once the negative fallout around Palin's doomed candidacy became obvious to Americans, less obvious to Alaskans. As seen by Palin's 15-plus-point slide in popularity in Alaska over the past nine weeks, Benson's story of success against adversity might have been crafted into an ad campaign narrative that could have been used as a force multiplier by Alaska Democrats.
I'm not sure whether Don Young understood that part of the unrealized aspects of a Benson candidacy in November, when he said this last night:
"Ethan did me a favor. He made me work a little harder. And, it's hard to have a race, very honestly, when you're not very challenged. Now, I will say this: Diane Benson would have been a much stronger candidate. Now, I say that right up front."
"She had a cause that you'd have to really work on."
Was he sincere, or was this a Don Young wedgie to Ethan?
In 2006, Young barely campaigned. But Benson's fight then made him realize - along with a lot of help between 2006 and 2008 from the FBI - that this year would be different. It was.
And it is - it isn't over.