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Alaska Senate Race Between Trump-Backed Tshibaka, Murkowski Tightens

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The race for the U.S. Senate between Republican incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her GOP challenger, Trump-backed Kelly Tshibaka, has taken a huge turn.

After Election Day, Tskibaka led Murkowski by several thousand votes, but after a dump of ballots ahead of the weekend, Murkowski has taken the lead, Fox News reported.

“As of Saturday morning, Murkowski leads Tshibaka by fewer than 2,000 first-choice votes, with no candidate in the race claiming an outright majority that would end the election. Murkowski has 112,519 votes, 43.3% of the total vote share, and Tshibaka has 110,861 votes, 42.7%,” the outlet reported.

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“The deadline to receive absentee ballots was Friday, Nov. 18, and the tabulation of second-choice votes is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Nov. 23,” Fox News continued.

The network explained that under the state’s ranked-choice voting method, voters are required to list four candidates who made it through the primaries in the order of whom they prefer. If none of those candidates wins an outright majority of first-choice votes on Election Day, then the count will proceed to a second round and the candidate that got the fewest number of votes gets eliminated.

Voters who chose the eliminated candidates then have their votes given to their second choice. And from there, the counting will continue until there are just two candidates, and the one who receives the most is the winner.

Fox News reported that, based on results that are already known, GOP candidate Buzz Kelly will be eliminated in round one after bringing in fewer than 3 percent of the votes. The next to be eliminated will be Patricia Chesbro, a Democrat, who received 10.4 percent of the vote. “There are 34,358 votes between these candidates that will be redistributed to voters’ second-choice candidates,” the outlet reported.

Because Murkowski is an anti-Trump centrist, it seems likely that she will benefit most from Chesbro’s 26,974 votes instead of Tshibaka, Fox News speculated.

Other state Republicans have sounded off on ranked-choice voting.

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Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who came in second to a Democratic incumbent for the state’s lone House seat after she split votes with another Republican candidate on Election Day, warned about the ranked-choice system ahead of voting.

“This is what’s going to elect Democrats and destroy our country before we even know it,” she told Breitbart News editor Adrienne Ross last month. “I am just sounding that alarm that it’s this bad.”

“I don’t want this to happen to any other electorate, in any city, in any state,” the former governor said. “Alaska is kind of this test case right now where we have elements of a perfect bad storm. We have lax voter-ID laws. We have a long election cycle where mail-in ballots can be mailed in for — gosh — it seems like months, if not many weeks.”

“Those are just a couple of aspects that create kind of this distrust of people in the process, and we cannot afford to have people not trust free and fair elections in our communities, in our states, in our nation, or we’re going to go under,” she said.

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“It’s not winner-take-all,” the former governor said. “You rank the candidates. … Then a process of elimination via an algorithm in a computer takes votes and distributes it to other candidates if the person that you did choose as your number-one pick didn’t end up on top.”

“The ballot question that asked whether we wanted ranked choice voting, it was 26 pages long, the explanation,” she said. “That right there should have told people, ‘Hey, wait.’ Anything that you can’t explain concisely, it’s no good when it comes to government.”

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She said that she believed that the ranked-choice voting was designed to keep Murkowski in power.

“This was written for Lisa Murkowski — and she’s a RINO — to keep her in the U.S. Senate because she can’t run and win as a normal Republican in Alaska because people figured her out. It was her attorney who wrote this thing,” she said.

Prior to the election, political analysis site FiveThirtyEight showed that the Trump-backed Tshibaka defeated Sen. Murkowski 52 of 100 times.

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