Begich Leads Stevens in Alaska Senate Slow Count
We all thought convicted felon Ted Stevens had been narrowly reelected to the Senate, presumably as a placeholder to keep the seat in Republican hands. Not so fast!
Mark Begich made a dramatic comeback Wednesday to overtake Ted Stevens for the lead in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race. Begich, who was losing after election night, now leads Stevens by 814 votes — 132,196 to 131,382 — with the state still to count roughly 35,000 more ballots over the next week. The state Division of Elections tallied some 60,000 absentee, early and questioned ballots on Wednesday. The ballots broke heavily in the Democrat’s favor, erasing the 3,000-vote lead Stevens held after election night Nov. 4.
Stevens, a 40-year incumbent, is trying to become the first person ever elected to the U.S. Senate after a being found guilty of felony crimes.
The state still needs to count at least 15,000 questioned ballots and an estimated 20,000 absentee ballots that made it to the Division of Elections after election day last Tuesday.
This is a truly bizarre process. After Stevens came out ahead on election night, we had the likes of Josh Marshall crying foul, questioning the counting process. Now, if Begich holds on to his mysterious lead, Republicans will not unreasonably be calling this a stolen election. (Ditto, incidentally, if Al Franken manages to win in Minnesota after all.)
There simply has to be a way to get the ballots all counted at once and counted only once. The tally has to be final on Election Day, absent clear and compelling evidence of error. Otherwise, we look like a banana republic, with the losing side in close races questioning the legitimacy of our elections.