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News :: Politics
Statewide Recount to Start in Alaska Senate Race
12 Dec 2004
A Fairbanks-based group dropped off an application Wednesday with the Alaska Division of Elections for a recount of the U.S. Senate race.

The state has five days to schedule a recount, Godkin said. In this case, he expects it would begin Monday and take three to four days to complete
Joe Sonneman, chairman of Alaskans for Fair Elections, right, accompanied by John Dunker and Amy Paige, handed an application Wednesday in Juneau for a recount of the U.S. Senate ballots to Tom Godkin with the Alaska Division of Elections. (Photo by DAVID J SHEAKLEY / The Associated Press)

A Fairbanks-based group dropped off an application Wednesday with the Alaska Division of Elections for a recount of the U.S. Senate race.

The Recount Alaska 2004 group submitted the application at the Division of Elections office in Juneau about 5 minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline, an elections official said.

David Koester, a member of Recount Alaska 2004, said the group had collected enough donations to raise most of the $10,000 required by the state for a recount. Koester said he would pitch in his own money to make up the $400 difference.

The group distrusts the results of the Nov. 2 election, which gave Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski a 3 percent edge over Democrat Tony Knowles, a former governor. Koester said AccuVote scanners used in Alaska have proven inconsistent elsewhere and exit polls had put Knowles ahead in the race.

"Our concern is the deviation in the exit polls and the results in the race," Koester said. "We just want to verify the machines, to make sure they were counting votes accurately."

Former Green Party Senate candidate Jim Sykes is part of the recount effort and submitted his signature to the Division of Elections on Wednesday as part of the group’s application.

"I’ve been following these issues for many years and thought it was a legitimate concern," he said. "The way I see it, the Division of Elections should be eager to demonstrate how well things are working and make a higher standard of vote verification."

The group had a five-day window to seek a recount since Elections Division Director Laura Glaiser certified the election, which had a record turnout of nearly 67 percent.

According to the final tally, Murkowski collected 149,446 votes -- or more than 48 percent -- to Knowles’ 139,878 votes, or more than 45 percent.

Knowles, who has distanced himself from the recount effort, said the day after the election he didn’t think he could make up the margin after all the votes were counted. On Wednesday, spokesman Matt McKenna said the former governor does not dispute the results of the election.

"But he certainly acknowledges a group of individual Alaskans that have raised the necessary amount of money under public law to confirm the integrity of the process," McKenna said.

Murkowski spokesman Chuck Kleeschulte said the senator did not believe a recount would change the outcome of the election, given the substantial margin of victory.

"But we hope it will provide everyone with additional assurance as to the accuracy and fairness of the state’s election process -- and that will be a good thing," Kleeschulte said.

The recount request is unusual because it involves a statewide race that’s not close, said Tom Godkin, elections administration supervisor. The state pays for recounts requested by candidates only in races with a vote difference of less than 0.5 percent.

The state has five days to schedule a recount, Godkin said. In this case, he expects it would begin Monday and take three to four days to complete.

Work would involve reviewing hand-count precincts and reprogramming 20 AccuVote machines to read only ballots cast in the Senate race. Ballots that can’t be read are flagged and then the elections division director decides whether the vote is valid, Godkin said.

"There’s a lot of ballot feeding and a lot of long hours involved in the process," Godkin said.

Recount organizers are asking that 10 percent of the 439 precincts be verified by hand count "so there’s an actual checking of the machine counting," Koester said. The group also plans to monitor the process in person, he said.

Daily News reporter Nicole Tsong contributed to this story.

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