What Can A Few Votes Do?

According to the 2020 Census data, it is estimated that Alaska Native people constitute 22 percent of the statewide population. If all Native people voted during a normal turnout year, approximately 25 percent of the electorate at the polls would be Native. That is more than any party, or special interest group out there. It is more than a “swing vote,” it is a game changer, and can influence the direction the State goes from here on out.

Even if that weren’t the case, one vote in Alaska has historically made all the difference! According to the Division of Elections, the following examples are occurrences when the votes of a few people changed results and restructured power dynamics:

  • 1978 – Jay Hammond won the nomination for governor over Walter Hickel in the primary election by just 98 votes statewide.
  • 1978 – ONE vote elected Tim Kelly to his Senate seat in District F.
  • 1982 – TWO votes gave the nomination for State Senate in District J to David McCracken in the primary election.
  • 1984 – ONE vote gave Mary Ratcliff the nomination for State Representative of House District 12 in the primary election.
  • 1986 – 17 votes (less than one vote per precinct) elected Rick Uehling Senator from District H, Seat B, out of 14,389 votes cast.
  • 1992 – FIVE votes (less than one vote per precinct) gave Al Vezey the nomination for State Representative of House District 32 in the primary election.
  • 1994 – 1.1 votes per precinct elected Tony Knowles as Governor and Fran Ulmer as Lt. Governor out of 216,668 votes cast in the general election.
  • 1996 – ONE vote gave Ann Spohnholz the nomination for State Representative of House District 21 in the primary election.
  • 1998 – A TIE was broken by a flip of the coin to elect Wayne Morgan after a runoff election for a school board seat in the Kuspuk School District.
  • 1999 – A TIE was broken by a flip of the coin to elect Larry Wilson to a school board seat in the Bering Strait School District.
  • 2004 –Lisa Murkowski’s first senate run had her win by a narrow 49-to-46 percent margin against a popular former Governor, Tony Knowles.
  • 2008 – 40-year Republican incumbent Ted Stevens was challenged by Democrat Mark Begich, who edged out Stevens, 48 percent to 47 percent, becoming the state’s first Democratic senator since 1974.
  • 2008 – Rep. Mike Kelly of Fairbanks faced Democratic challenger Karl Kassel, who was one vote short of a win in a turnout of 5,017 votes to Kelly’s 5,018.
  • 2016 – For Girdwood residents Proposition 9 instituted a local tax in the Turnagain Arm community for police service. The tax was won by two votes. Money was raised for a recount but the outcome didn’t change — it actually picked up a single vote, and the tax prevailed by a final tally of 411 in favor to 408 opposed.
  • 2016 – In the Democratic primary in House District 40, incumbent Ben Nageak and challenger Dean Westlake fought a tough contest, with a narrow eight-vote victory for Westlake. Nageak mounted a legal challenge, and a Superior Court judge threw out 12 Democratic ballots from those voters, putting Nageak ahead by two and made him the apparent victor. But the Alaska Supreme Court reversed that ruling and reinstated the original result, which handed a win back to Westlake. Had Nageak survived the ruling, he would have won by only two votes.
  • 2018 – At one point, Republican Bart LeBon and Democrat Kathryn Dodge were locked in a 2,661 tie for House District 1. In counting, Dodge and LeBon would pick up a vote in one precinct, but loose their lead in another. The same thing happened when absentee ballots were counted. LeBon ended up winning by a “mystery ballot.”
  • 2018 – Alaska State Senate President Pete Kelly of Fairbanks lost his slim lead of 11 votes over Democratic challenger, then-Representative, Scott Kawasaki, to a larger counting of 152 votes in Kawasaki’s favor.

The Coin Toss
2006 – In the Democratic primary for House District 37, Dillingham’s Bryce Edgmon challenged incumbent Rep. Carl Moses, and the race ended up tied after a Supreme Court fight over a handful of disputed ballots. State law governing tied races dictates that candidates settle the result by drawing lots — in that case, a coin toss.

Held at Anchorage’s Loussac Library, and the coin was specially made by the Alaska Mint, featuring a walrus on one side and the state seal on the other.

Lt. Gov. Loren Leman convened the coin toss. Director of the Division of Elections Whitney Brewster flipped the Alaska Mint medallion, with the walrus side being “heads” and the State of Alaska seal being “tails.” Rep. Moses’ name was drawn prior to the coin flip to call his choice for the flip. He called heads. The coin landed on tails, making the winner Bryce Edgmon.

Edgmon, has held office since and went on to become the Speaker of the House in 2016. He was the first Alaska Native legislator to hold the position.