Midterm elections: Murkowski, Peltola win in ranked-choice tabulation

By Peter Loewi
Following the November 23 tabulation of the ranked-choice votes, Lisa Murkowski and Mary Peltola both won reelection to Congress, both with around 54 percent of the final vote.
Heading into the Wednesday count, Republican Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent senator, led Republican Kelly Tshibaka by about 2,000 votes, 43.37 percent to 42.64 percent. Democrat Pat Chesbro had 10.74 percent and Republican Buzz Kelley, who suspended his campaign to back Tshibaka, had 3.25 percent.
In ranked-choice voting, when one candidate doesn’t garner 50 percent plus one of the votes, the second choices of those who voted for the last-place finisher are tabulated. In Round 1 of the tabulation for the Senate, Kelley was eliminated, and his 8,540 voters were given a second chance to weigh in on the election. Since that still didn’t lead to 50 percent for any candidate, the process was repeated in Round 2 for those who picked Chesbro. Of the 29,078 people who ranked Chesbro first, 20,543 picked Murkowski second and only 2,209 ranked Tshibaka. The remaining 6,289 voters “exhausted” their vote, meaning they didn’t vote for another candidate, and there were 37 “overvotes,” where a voter ranked the same candidate more than once.  
Round 3 of the ranked-choice tabulation led Murkowski to reelection, where she garnered 135,972 (53.69 percent) votes to 117,299 (46.31 percent) over Tshibaka.
Tshibaka, who had previously hinted to contest the election results, conceded the race. “It’s clear from the ranked choice tabulations that Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been re-elected, and I congratulate her on that,” she said in a press release. “The new election system has been frustrating to many Alaskans, because it was indisputably designed as an incumbent-protection program, and it clearly worked as intended.” She also thanked former President Trump.
Another Trump-backed candidate who lost election in Alaska was Sarah Palin, who ran for Alaska’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, held by Democrat Mary Peltola after a special election this summer.
Palin was second going into the tabulation, but trailed Peltola by more than 20 points, 25.83 percent to 48.64 percent. Republican Nick Begich was in a close third with 23.64 percent. The ranked-choice process saw Libertarian candidate Chris Bye eliminated after the first round and his 4,986 votes’ second choices tabulated.
In the second round of tabulation Nick Begich was eliminated. Of the 64,392 votes Begich received (first rank plus votes transferred from Chris Bye’s voters), 43,013 were transferred to Palin in the second round. The 7,460 votes that Peltola received from Begich voters who ranked her second, were enough to put her over 50 percent mark.
Peltola had 54.96 percent to Palin’s 45.06 percent of the vote; 13,864 ballots were exhausted because they didn’t vote for another candidate after Begich, emphasizing a divide in the Republican party.
After the victory was announced, Peltola told reporters, “I think it shows that Alaskans wholeheartedly embrace nonpartisanship and embrace working together and tackling issues that Alaskans face.”
Palin’s campaign issued a statement on Friday congratulating Peltola.
The Governor’s election was decided prior to tabulation as incumbent Mike Dunleavy garnered 50.28 percent of the first choice votes. Alaskans rejected holding a constitutional convention, with 70 percent saying no.
Nome is divided into two voting precincts, which had statistically similar turnouts and choices.
For the Senate, 67 percent of Nome voters picked Murkowski as their first choice, 23 percent picked Tshibaka, and 7 percent voted for Chesbro.
In the race for House Representative, 71 percent of Nome voters cast their first choice for Peltola, 16 percent for Palin and 10 percent for Begich.
While Nomeites had clear favorites in the Congressional elections, the Governor’s race was more divided: 37 percent voted for Dunleavy, 31 percent favored Bill Walker and 25 percent cast their first rank choice for Les Gara.

House District 39
While the lead was at one point as close as six votes, Alaska House Representative Neal Foster won reelection over Tyler Ivanoff by 95 votes, about 2.5 percent. The race for State House Representative was close and divided widely across the district, which includes the northern Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Ivanoff, originally from Elim and now living in Shishmaref, received a higher percentage of the votes in 12 of the 15 villages in the Nome Census Area. Foster received more votes in Nome, as well as eight of the 11 villages in the YK Delta but not in the Nome Census Area.
In total, 44.3 percent of eligible Alaskans voted, but only 35.2 percent of voters in House District 39, which includes the Nome Census Area, cast their ballot.
With 51 percent, Brevig Mission was the only community in the region where more than half of the registered voters cast a ballot. In Nome, voter turnout was 29 percent.
The Alaska Division of Elections expects to certify the election this week, but it had not been certified by press time.


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