Laraine Derr, of the Regional Accu-Vote Board, center, waits for her machine to print out a tally as she, David Clover, left, and Mary Foster count questioned and absentee ballots at the State of Alaska election office at the Mendenhall Mall on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Laraine Derr, of the Regional Accu-Vote Board, center, waits for her machine to print out a tally as she, David Clover, left, and Mary Foster count questioned and absentee ballots at the State of Alaska election office at the Mendenhall Mall on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

New vote tallies aid challenged Alaska legislative incumbents

Senate Majority Leader, House Rules Chairwoman take leads as absentee ballots are counted

Incumbent Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux has taken a significant lead in a Republican primary race marred by possible voter fraud.

On Tuesday, the Alaska Division of Elections counted questioned ballots and the first round of absentee ballots from the Aug. 21 statewide primary election.

LeDoux, the powerful chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, trailed little-known challenger Aaron Weaver at the end of Election Day but has taken an 113-vote lead after additional votes were counted. Under state law, completed absentee ballots must be received through the mail by Friday in order to count.

The Alaska Division of Elections expects to certify election results on Saturday, but arguments over LeDoux’s race and several other close contests could continue for longer than that.

On Monday, the Division of Elections said it had found an unusually high number of irregularities among absentee ballots in the LeDoux-Weaver race, including attempts by seven dead people to cast ballots.

The division said it is taking precautions to strike any attempts at improper voting, and it has contacted the Alaska Department of Law to determine whether criminal charges may be warranted.

John Skidmore, director of the department’s criminal division, said by email that he had no comment.

In a Tuesday press release, the division said 12.5 percent of the absentee ballots cast in the District 15 election were questionable for various reasons. All of the questionable ballots were intended for LeDoux, but the division withheld counting them.

By phone on Tuesday afternoon, LeDoux said her get-out-the-vote campaign “was geared toward the absentees, and I felt very, very comfortable I would end up with three-quarters of the absentees.”

State Republican Party chairman Tuckerman Babcock has accused LeDoux of malfeasance in the election, something LeDoux flatly denies.

“He has no evidence I did anything wrong,” she said, calling his accusations baseless and extreme.

The state Republican party has opposed LeDoux’s re-election since she joined the predominantly Democratic House Majority coalition.

“I’m surprised he’s not accusing me of first-degree murder,” she said.

In response to the possible attempts at election fraud, LeDoux said “(Anchorage neighborhood) Muldoon is starting to sound like Chicago. … What the hell else is next?”

What’s next may be a write-in campaign by Republicans to defeat LeDoux in the general election.

If that happens, “Does that take enough votes from me that he manages to get the Democrat in?” LeDoux asked.

“That’s really, really smart,” she said with sarcasm.

In Juneau, elections officials counted hundreds of ballots at the division’s Region I office in the Mendenhall Mall, including the close-fought Republican races in Senate District O and to replace former Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski.

In District O, Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, now leads challenger Ron Gillham by 71 votes, according to preliminary counts made by the Empire from voting-machine receipts. The precise tally was expected to change before the end of the day, but Micciche was still expected to hold the lead.

There is no Democratic or independent candidate, meaning the Republican primary effectively decides the District O seat, unless a write-in candidate attempts to challenge the winner.

Entering Tuesday, Micciche had trailed Gillham by nine votes, but Micciche edged Gillham in absentee votes even as Gillham topped Micciche among questioned ballots cast on Election Day.

The results of that race, as in the LeDoux-Weaver contest, will not be final until this weekend.

In House District 29, Chenault’s seat, Benjamin Carpenter led Wayne Ogle for the Republican nomination, reversing the Election Day result. Entering the Tuesday count, Ogle led by three votes, but Carpenter was favored among absentee voters, giving him a 17-vote lead according to preliminary counts made by the Empire from voting-machine receipts.

In House districts 33 and 34, covering Juneau and northern Southeast Alaska, the addition of absentee and questioned ballots did not affect the result. Andi Story remains the winner of the Democratic primary in Mendenhall Valley’s District 34, while Sara Hannan remains the winner of the Democratic primary in House District 33.

Hannan will face independent candidate Chris Dimond in the Nov. 6 general election. Story will face Republican Jerry Nankervis, who won his primary unopposed.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or 523-2258.

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