Claire Richardson, director of constituent services for U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, offers a toast at a watch party McGivney’s Sports Bar Grill as the incumbent emerges with a strong lead on Election Night. But Richardson said the state’s new ranked choice voting makes it likely the winner won’t be known until second- and third-choice ballots are tallied Nov. 23. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Claire Richardson, director of constituent services for U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, offers a toast at a watch party McGivney’s Sports Bar Grill as the incumbent emerges with a strong lead on Election Night. But Richardson said the state’s new ranked choice voting makes it likely the winner won’t be known until second- and third-choice ballots are tallied Nov. 23. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Update: Ranked choice seems set to decide congressional races

More to come, but no set schedule, per Division of Elections.

Update Wednesday morning: Unofficial election results shared shortly before 3 a.m. maintained trends shown through the first few batches of results.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy with over 52% of the vote maintained a nearly 30-point lead over the next closest candidate, Democratic challenger Les Gara. With 96.27% of precincts reported, that puts Dunleavy on track for reelection without ranked choice tabulation, but results in all races could shift as further votes, including early and absentee votes, are tallied. Independent former Gov. Bill Walker had 20.09% of the Election Day tally, and Charlie Pierce, a Republican, had 4.55% of the vote.

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola enjoyed a similar commanding lead with over 47% of the vote, which is almost 21 points ahead of the next closest candidate, former Gov. Sarah Palin, who is a Republican.

The U.S. Senate race was the night’s tightest contest with Republican candidate Kelly Tshibaka leading the field with 44.36% of the vote in the unofficial results. However, that was less than 2% more than incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s 44.36% share of the vote. Democrat Pat Chesbro had 9.54% of the vote and Republican Buzz Kelley, who previously suspended his campaign and endorsed Tshibaka, received nearly 3% of the votes counted on Election Day.

The question of whether to have a constitutional convention, which is asked of voters ever 10 years, was heading toward resounding defeat. Nearly 70% of voters voted against it while a smidgen over 30% of voters voted for it.

In Juneau’s lone competitive state Legislature race, Rep. Sara Hannan cruised toward reelection with all precincts reported. Hannan, a Democrat, secured 79% of the vote to independent Darrell Harmon’s nearly 20% of the vote. Write in candidates received just over 1% of the vote in that race.

All judges on the ballot were trending toward retention.

Update 11:10 p.m.: There weren’t any shocking results in Alaska’s first ranked choice general election — and one of the expected outcomes is candidates and voters will have to wait until the final ballot tally in 15 days to know the winners of the biggest races.

With about 70% of precincts reporting, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola and Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy both had large leads over a pair of challengers (whose combined votes through ranked choice might make one of the challengers the winner). Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Senate challenger Kelly Tshibaka was clinging to a shrinking lead over incumbent Lisa Murkowski, although the latter is expected to get most of the second-choice ballots going to Democrat Pat Chesbro who had nearly 10%.

“It’s too early to tell,” Claire Richardson, director of constituent services for Peltola, said shortly before the end of a Juneau watch party for the campaign Tuesday night. “These are the folks who voted early, like me. With ranked choice it’s a whole new ballgame…this is not like the old days where you have a winner in the first 24 hours.”

One outcome not in suspense is the lone ballot measure on a state constitutional convention. Opponents of the proposal, which automatically appears on the ballot every 10 years, were prevailing with more than 70% of the vote.

Among the other certain winners was Juneau state Sen. Jesse Kiehl, who was unopposed, but he said he is taking the first flight Wednesday morning to Anchorage to start trying to build a bipartisan coalition in the senate despite the lack of certainty about which candidates will prevail.

“There’s some in both directions,” he said, referring to candidates more or less likely to form such a coalition. But he said he expects most state Senate members taking part in the early politicking Wednesday since “if you can get to 11 or 12 committed then you can invite in the winners of whatever’s left.”

“There’s also the first-mover advantage,” he said. “If other folks get to a handshake before you do you miss out.”

The Alaska Division of Elections has released three updated sets of results after polls closed at 8 p.m., with the most recent tally including some early votes and absentee votes. While it is not known if those votes were a factor, the update did make noticeable shifts favoring Democrats and moderate Republicans in competitive races.

Tshibaka, for instance, had a lead of about 47%-40.5% over Murkowski after the second release of ballots, but the margin after the third batch shrank to 44.8%-42.1%. Peltola saw her share jump about 2% to 46.6%, while former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin dropped about 1% to 26.8% and Republican Nick Begich III also dropped slightly to 24.6%.

Dunleavy saw his standing drop against Democrat Les Gara and independent former Gov. Bill Walker. The respective percentages for the candidates went from 53.6/21.5/20 after the second round of ballots to 51.7/23.3/20 after the third.

Update 9:45 p.m.: With more than 56% of precincts reporting, results were holding relatively steady compared to initial results with Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Republican U.S. Senate challenger Kelly Tshibaka leading their opponents.

Tshibaka increased her standing slightly to 47.06%, with incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski nearly even at 40.41%, Democrat Patricia Chesbro slipping to 9.17% and Republican Buzz Kelley at 3.02%.

Peltola slipped slightly to 44.63%, Republican former Gov. Sarah Palin dropped to 27.77%, Republican Nick Begich II rose to 25.57% and Libertarian Chris Bye dropped to 1.93%.

Dunleavy continues to be the dominant candidate of the night with 53.59%, with Democrat Les Gara at 21.54% surpassing independent former Gov. Bill Walker at 19.9%. The two challengers leapfrogged each other numerous times when votes were tallied during the August primary. Republican Charlie Pierce continues to trail far behind at 4.82%.

Voters are also continuing to reject a state constitutional convention by a more than 2-1 margin.

Update 9:20 p.m.: U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola and Gov. Mike Dunleavy appeared well-positioned, but far from certain, for reelection in the first round of official results released by the Alaska Division of Elections. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is trailing fellow Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka by about 6%, but the incumbent could benefit from most of the nearly 10% of the vote going to Democrat Patricia Chesbro.

There’s no such suspense with the ballot measure calling for a constitutional convention, however, as voters again rejected it by a large margin as they have almost every decade since statehood.

State Sen. Jesse Kiehl of Juneau, right, and lifelong Juneau resident Andrea Ebona Michel monitor election returns Tuesday night at a watch party hosted by U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola’a campaign at McGivney’s Sports Bar Grill downtown. Kiehl, a Democrat, was the lone state senator who was unopposed in his race. Both of Juneau’s Democratic state House representatives also won reelection. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

State Sen. Jesse Kiehl of Juneau, right, and lifelong Juneau resident Andrea Ebona Michel monitor election returns Tuesday night at a watch party hosted by U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola’a campaign at McGivney’s Sports Bar Grill downtown. Kiehl, a Democrat, was the lone state senator who was unopposed in his race. Both of Juneau’s Democratic state House representatives also won reelection. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

All three of Juneau’s Democratic state legislators also appear to have reelection. State Sen. Jesse Kiehl and Rep. Andi Story were unopposed, while Sara Hannan was prevailing by a dominant margin over little-known challenger Darrell Harmon, whose party affiliation is undeclared.

With 104 of 402 precincts reporting Tshibaka had 46.58% of the vote, with Murkowski at 40.52%, Chesbro at 9.55% and Republican Buzz Kelley (who suspended his campaign and endorsed Tshibaka) at 3.11%. Tshibaka was backed by the Alaska Republican Party, which censured Murkowski due to vote to impeach former President Donald Trump after the 2020 election.

Peltola, who surprised many experts in August by becoming the first Democrat to win Alaska’s U.S. House race in about 50 years following the death of Don Young, had 44.98% of the vote in the initial results. Former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin had 28.06%, Republican Nick Begich III 24.85% and Libertarian Chris Bye 2%.

Dunleavy, a Republican, outperformed his statewide primary and polling numbers with 52.85% of the initial vote, with independent former Gov. Bill Walker at 21.15%, Democrat Les Gara at 20.87% and Republican Charlie Pierce at 4.97%.

The constitutional convention ballot measure was opposed by 69.31% of initial voters with 30.69% in favor.

Ella Adkinson, left, and Cathy Schlingheyde are the lone campaign sign wavers during the evening rush hour at the McNugget Intersection, one of two major locations sign wavers typically gather locally. State Sen. Jesse Kiehl of Juneau, who coordinated some of the activity during the day, said nearly 20 people representing a variety of candidates gathered at the other intersection at Egan Drive and 12th Street at about 5 p.m. By 6 p.m. all of them were gone from the downtown intersection. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Update 8 p.m.: Local voting continued at a steady pace throughout the day as the 8 p.m. closing time at polls approached, as some residents prepared for a late night of watching returns and others planned to go to bed early since the state’s ranked choice voting means the outcome of some or all of the major races likely won’t certain for more than two weeks.

“I’ll look at it, but it really won’t be the focus of my life,” said Gary Zepp, a Juneau resident for 48 years who’s spent years working at the state Capitol, after casting his vote at the Juneau Fire Station at about 6 p.m. “It’s all preliminary the first night, I think.”

Nonetheless, he’s among the Alaskans expressing enthusiasm about the state’s first year of ranked choice voting, saying one of the best aspects “it shakes things up, and we’ve got a lot of local, state and national elections that need a lot of shaking.”

“We have a lot of people who would make great leaders, but they never get elected,” Zepp said.

About 460 people had voted at the fire station as of 5:45 p.m. and the steady stream was unusual compared to the past few elections, said Grace Lee, the precinct chair and an official at the location for her 12th election.

“We haven’t had any significant lulls, so that’s new,” she said, adding it’s also unusual there were no heavy rush periods.

Lee was among the workers at the station who remained for the full 13 hours the polls were open Tuesday, but she said her focus on the election — at least for today — would end when her shift did.

“I won’t think about it,” she said. “I’m going home and going to sleep.”

Rook Anderson, 5, beams after collecting an “I Voted” sticker at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church on Tuesday evening. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Rook Anderson, 5, beams after collecting an “I Voted” sticker at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church on Tuesday evening. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

A swift-moving stream of voters also made its way through the polling place at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church during the last 90 minutes of Election Day. However, election officials said the surge paled in comparison compared to an earlier rush around 4:30 p.m.

Precinct Chair Jonathan Estes said turnout was comparable at the location to the August primary, but added it was tough to put a finer point on the strength of turnout in light of the popularity of early and absentee voting.

Among those casting a relatively last-second ballot was Tushyne Eyre.

“I feel good about my election choices,” Eyre said., noting Election Day happened to fall on her birthday. “I just hope everyone goes out and does their part.”

Some political enthusiasts intent on observing the state and national rates gathered at watch parties at McGivney’s Sports Bar & Grill downtown (hosted by staff for Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola) and Louie’s Douglas Inn (hosted by staff for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski). The first results from the state Division of Elections are expected at 9 p.m.

Original story: Richard Hulse, 18, was excited about casting his first election ballot ever, but had a more tepid response for the ranked choice voting Alaska is using for the first time this year.

“It was decent,” Hulse said after picking his preferences at the Mendenhall Mall voting station. “I really didn’t like it, but it was decent.”

He said he’s unsure if he would have preferred the old pick-one method of voting since he never experienced it.

Hulse and other voters will have to wait until Nov 23 when second- and third-choice ballots are tallied to find out who many of the winners are in the races for governor, U.S. House, one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats, 59 of 60 seats in the Alaska State Legislature, approving a state constitutional convention and retaining several judges.

Given all those novelties, what was Hulse’s overall impression in participating in an election for the first time?

“It’s great,” Hulse said.

Ranked choice voting was far more enthusiastically embraced by another pair of first-time Alaska voters, Ashley Morehouse and Colter Nubson, who moved to Juneau from Washington state in September. Morehouse said she studied the voting method and candidates online, and felt no confusion or indecision when casting her ballot.

“I wish the entire country was doing it,” she said. “It just feels more fair.”

Steady turnout exceeds August primary

A steady stream of voters was reported at polling stations around Juneau from the start of voting at 7 a.m. through midday. Election officials at the early and absentee polling place near the Division of Elections offices said voter turnout had been noticeably on the rise since Friday, and was generally stronger than in primary held in mid-August.

Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire 
Voters cast ballots early Tuesday morning at the Douglas Library. Election workers at most polling stations said turnout was strong and steady throughout the day, exceeding the flow seen during the August primary and special election.

Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire Voters cast ballots early Tuesday morning at the Douglas Library. Election workers at most polling stations said turnout was strong and steady throughout the day, exceeding the flow seen during the August primary and special election.

“It’s been a higher early voter turnout than the primary,” said election official Julie Hedges, who added voters have generally been great to work with.

“The voters have been fantastic,” Hedges said.

A few minutes away, officials at Precinct 04-130 — located near the Alaskan Dames Consignment Shop in the Mendenhall Mall — also reported a steady morning turnout that surpassed the primary election. Officials at both polling places said that voters largely seem to have a handle on the state’s new ranked choice system, but some questions did come up.

“We had a few people with questions, but nothing we couldn’t answer,” said Kady Levale, chair of the precinct.

Brock Tabor, precinct chair at the Alaska State Museum polling place, said there weren’t any complaints from voters, and everything seemed to be going “super smooth.” Every 20 minutes or so he walked outside to make sure no one was canvassing or engaging in other illegal political activities within 200 feet of the polling site.

Tabor said by 10 a.m. the precinct had around 90 votes counted and expected much more later in the day, particularly around lunchtime and after work hours.

Poll workers Robert Minch and Mary Borthwick said they decided to work the polls because they think it’s important to help out and to make sure voting is easy and comfortable for all residents of Juneau.

“I’m glad to see people coming to vote,” Borthwick said.

Differences of opinion

Al Sletten, a 50-year Juneau resident who cast his vote at the state museum, said he voted for Republican U.S. Senate challenger Kelly Tshibaka and incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Sletten said he supports Dunleavy because “Alaska has gotten better since he’s been in office” and he wants the momentum to continue.

As for his decision to vote in favor of Tshibaka, he said the incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski was a “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) and Tshibaka better represents Alaska Republicans. The Alaska Republican Party endorsed Tshibaka while the national party apparatus — including Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican — backed Murkowski.

John Peterson exits the Alaska State Museum after casting his ballot in Tuesday’s general election. He said more information provided to voters make the state’s new ranked choice voting process easier than during the primary election in August. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

John Peterson exits the Alaska State Museum after casting his ballot in Tuesday’s general election. He said more information provided to voters make the state’s new ranked choice voting process easier than during the primary election in August. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

John Peterson, a Juneau resident who cast his ballot early this morning at the state museum, said he felt there are “a lot of good people” on the ballot this year, and said that’s what motivated him to get out and vote. Peterson also said there has been better information shared about ranked choice voting since the primary election in August and this time voting with the new system was easier to grasp.

Among his preferred candidates is Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, who won the special election in August to fill the remainder of the late Don Young’s term and who’s primary challengers in the general election are the two Republicans she previously defeated after ranked choice votes were tallied.

“Peltola has a good grasp about what Alaska’s all about,” Peterson said.

No troublemakers at polls; warning about suspicious texts

While election workers and voters in some states are reporting threats from sometimes-armed observers, Brenda Knapp said one of her tasks an official poll watcher in Juneau is to make sure people don’t feel their voting is interfered with.

“It’s to ensure if there are irresponsible people who are disrupting the process that it is reported and noted right away,” she said, adding election workers can respond by taking action including calling the police if necessary.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Brenda Knapp, an official poll watcher at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall polling station, chats with a voter late Tuesday morning. While some election workers and voters nationwide have reported being threatened by observers, Knapp said part of her role is to watch for and report troublemakers.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire Brenda Knapp, an official poll watcher at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall polling station, chats with a voter late Tuesday morning. While some election workers and voters nationwide have reported being threatened by observers, Knapp said part of her role is to watch for and report troublemakers.

While a few people on Tuesday glanced at Knapp’s poll watcher ID tag as they entered the voting station at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, nobody mistook her as somebody intent on questioning the integrity of the process and she spent much of the morning quietly observing the happenings or casually chatting with voters (“I can’t advise you,” she emphasized).

But a warning was issued by the state Division of Elections at midday following reported of unofficial and incorrect text messages from some voters statewide.

“Be suspicious of text messages that provide you with polling place information,” the alert stated. “We are not texting you.”

People can find out their polling location by calling the elections division at (907) 465-4611 or visiting its interactive online map.

Stuart Sliter, precinct chair for for the Douglas Library polling place, said she’s been overseeing voting for the past 30 years and. She said while turnout generally starts slow, she can always count on a busy day.

“It’s been slow, but steady,” she said. “We’ve had 96 people come through so far, which is fairly good. I do expect us to be busy all day.”

North Douglas precinct chairperson Grace Lee said that location also saw 96 voters as of shortly after 9 a.m. at Juneau-Douglas Fire Station voting station. Based on prior experience, she said she expected things to pick up in the evening closer to when people are getting off of work.

“It’s been a very steady stream of voters coming in this morning, even with the cold,” Lee said. “It’s been going pretty well, we haven’t had any issues so far — knock on wood. It does pick up here at lunch and then in the evenings, as well.”

Randal Davis was one of those 96 people to cast his vote at the fire station and, while he’s been in Juneau his entire life, he said he feels voting is important all across the country for the same reason — civic duty.

“It’s important to vote because this is our chance and responsibility to say who represents us in the state legislature and Congress and judges, at least for this election anyway,” Davis said.

Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at Mark.Sabbatini@juneauempire.com. Juneau Empire staff Ben Hohenstatt, Clarise Larson and Jonson Kuhn contributed reporting to this article.

State Sen. Jesse Kiehl of Juneau, right, and lifelong Juneau resident Andrea Ebona Michel monitor election returns Tuesday night at a watch party hosted by U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola’a campaign at McGivney’s Sports Bar & Grill downtown. Kiehl, a Democrat, was the lone state senator who was unopposed in his race. Both of Juneau’s Democratic state House representatives also won reelection. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Ella Adkinson, left, and Cathy Schlingheyde are the lone campaign sign wavers during the evening rush hour at the McNugget Intersection, one of two major locations sign wavers typically gather locally. State Sen. Jesse Kiehl of Juneau, who coordinated some of the activity during the day, said nearly 20 people representing a variety of candidates gathered at the other intersection at Egan Drive and 12th Street at about 5 p.m. By 6 p.m. all of them were gone from the downtown intersection. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Ella Adkinson, left, and Cathy Schlingheyde are the lone campaign sign wavers during the evening rush hour at the McNugget Intersection, one of two major locations sign wavers typically gather locally. State Sen. Jesse Kiehl of Juneau, who coordinated some of the activity during the day, said nearly 20 people representing a variety of candidates gathered at the other intersection at Egan Drive and 12th Street at about 5 p.m. By 6 p.m. all of them were gone from the downtown intersection. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire 
An election official helps a voter feed their completed and sealed ballot into the ballot box on Election Day 2022.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire An election official helps a voter feed their completed and sealed ballot into the ballot box on Election Day 2022.

Tushyne Eyre votes Tuesday evening at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in the Mendenhall Valley with assistance from poll worker Peggy Cowan. Eyre noted that Election Day is also her birthday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Tushyne Eyre votes Tuesday evening at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in the Mendenhall Valley with assistance from poll worker Peggy Cowan. Eyre noted that Election Day is also her birthday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Michael Blackwell watches the screen on the voting machine while poll worker Peggy Cowarn gestures toward the portion whether the ballot has been accepted. (Ben Hohesntatt / Juneau Empire)

Michael Blackwell watches the screen on the voting machine while poll worker Peggy Cowarn gestures toward the portion whether the ballot has been accepted. (Ben Hohesntatt / Juneau Empire)

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