Recount process differs between State of Alaska and Fairbanks North Star Borough elections

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 4:09 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Alaska has already seen a recount request during the 2020 election season, submitted by John Coghill in the Republican Primary for Alaska Senate Seat B. Between the State of Alaska and the Fairbanks North Star Borough, differences can be found in the requirements for initiating recounts and the systems for processing them.

According to Tiffany Montemayor, Public Relations Manager with the Alaska Division of Elections, during state elections recounts are automatically paid for in three circumstances: when there is a tie, when candidates are 20 votes apart, and when the difference between them is 0.5% or less.

If none of these conditions are met, a candidate may still request a recount at their own expense. For state elections, these requests cannot be made until the results of an election are certified, and must be made within 5 days of that event. The exception to this rule is the races for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, in which the request must be made within 3 days of certification.

A candidate must send a written letter stating their request.

The price for a recount varies based on how much of the vote a candidate wishes to be recounted. Recounting a precinct’s results costs $1,000, a State House district costs $2,000, and the whole state costs $15,000.

In the event that a recount is initiated, representatives for each candidate select two precincts, or polling stations, and votes from those precincts are counted by hand by the State Review Board. In the remaining precincts, ballots are run through the scanning system for a second time, unless requested otherwise.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Clerk April Trickey explained that in the borough an automatic recount is triggered by a difference of 10 votes between the top two candidates. Otherwise, “If a candidate, a defeated candidate, requested a recount, then they would be required to pay a $200 fee per precinct,” she said.

Trickey said recounts of a precinct may also be requested by 10 qualified voters, for the same fee. They must fill out an application stating specific grounds for the recount.

Applications for a borough election recount must be received by either the Monday following the election, or one business day after absentee and questioned ballots are counted, according to Trickey.

The borough’s system for recounts, according to Trickey, involves feeding ballots through the borough’s scanning system again. “If there were any different marks, or something like that, the scanner would stop, we would look at it, [and] make a determination -- why did the ballot not scan, were there any ambiguous marks, was the ballot marked correctly,” she said.

Montemayor said this is the first year the state started using a new scanning system. “It will catch the tiniest little extra marking on there that’s outside the bubble. And it separates those so that they can be looked over on the computer,” she said. This system also identifies overvoting, a situation in which someone votes for two candidates in the same race.

According to Trickey, the last time the borough undertook a recount was in 2006, an assembly race between Charlie Rex and Tammie Wilson.

Montemayor emphasized the importance of voting. “Every eligible vote will count, no matter how it’s voted -- whether absentee or in-person or early, they will be counted. It may take a little longer to get the final count because there’s so many different elements in this year’s election, especially the increase in absentee ballots that were requested,” she said, adding, “We want to be accurate, we want to be fair and make sure that everything’s correct, and things get checked and double-checked before we send out any kind of results.”

Absentee and questioned ballots from the October 6th municipal elections have been counted. These ballots have not changed the winner in any race, and no races are close enough to trigger an automatic recount. Our updated election results can be found on our webpage.

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