House District 39, covering the Bering Strait/Norton Sound. Image: Alaska Division of Elections.

The two main races for the Bering Strait Region in last week’s Primary Election were too close to call. Even now with 100% of precincts counted, the Senate District T and House District 39 races are still undecided. That’s because about half of Alaskan voters took advantage of the state’s no-excuse Absentee voting option.

About 80,000 people statewide voted on Primary Election day last week [August 18th] and 62,439 more voted absentee.

Tiffany Montemayor of the Division of Elections told KUAC Radio on Tuesday that the ballot envelopes were logged and starting to be counted at the Division’s Absentee office in Anchorage.

“Today (Tuesday) is when the Absentee-by-mail and the Absentee-in-person ballots will start to be counted. Our target date for that to finish is August 28th.”

Some were submitted online or faxed in on election day. The rest have been coming in by mail. For House District 39, which includes the entire Bering Strait region and areas stretching down to Hooper Bay, more than 200 absentee ballots were cast. Currently, Representative Neal Foster of Nome has a 40-vote lead on challenger Tyler Ivanoff of Shishmaref, but Montemayor says a presumptive winner can’t be named until absentee ballots are counted.

About a third of the blank ballots sent out haven’t come back yet. Absentee ballots must have been postmarked on election day, August 18. And, Montemayor says, they must be counted no later than 10 days after a primary election. The Division of Elections’ told KNOM Wednesday that the Region 4 office in Nome has not yet counted any absentee or questioned ballots from the primary.

“We did get a record number of absentee-by-mail ballots for this primary, and we’ve hired extra people and we’ve gotten extra space to do all these counts and reviews and organizing.”

– TIffany Montemayor

In the Senate District T race, which would identify a challenger for incumbent Donny Olson of Golovin, Thomas Baker of Kotzebue has 61% of the votes while Calvin Moto the second of Deering has 39% thus far. Again, a winner cannot be named in this case until all absentee ballots for the region are counted.

Montemayor says the Division is pushing the “Vote Safe 907” campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic, and voters took advantage of safe options.

“Absentee-by-mail is one of the safest ways to vote. You can do it all from home, you apply online from home, you receive it at home, you mail it back. It’s really low contact with people.”

– Tiffany Montemayor

According to the Alaska Division of Elections, they hope to certify the Primary Election results next week, around August 30th.

*KUAC Radio in Fairbanks contributed to this report.

Image at top: House District 39, covering the Bering Strait/Norton Sound. Image: Alaska Division of Elections.