ANCHORAGE - Alaska will begin counting more than 53,000 absentee and questioned ballots on Tuesday in an effort to resolve the state's unsettled contests for the Senate and for governor.
Democratic Sen. Mark Begich trailed Republican challenger Dan Sullivan by about 8,100 votes after Election Night. Begich is banking on the uncounted votes after waging an aggressive ground game in rural Alaska.
The outcome of the new round of vote-counting won't change the balance of the Senate. Republicans gained seven seats in last week's election, more than enough to grab the Senate majority for the remainder of President Barack Obama's presidency.
The limbo between Election Night and the outcome of the new count created a vacuum the candidates' spokesmen sought to fill.
"Every Alaskan deserves to have their vote counted, and past experience indicates that counting these votes will favor Begich and draw this race closer," Begich's spokesman, Max Croes, said in an email Monday to The Associated Press.
Begich has returned to Washington, D.C., for the lame duck session.
"The math doesn't add up for Mark Begich," said Ben Sparks, Sullivan's campaign manager, adding that according to their analysis, Sullivan will increase his lead once the votes are counted. Sullivan, who returned from weekend Marine reservist training, didn't plan any public statementsMonday, Sparks said.
The race for Alaska governor is actually closer than the Senate contest.
Independent candidate Bill Walker, aided when the winner of the Democratic primary bowed out of the race to run as Walker's lieutenant governor, led incumbent Republican Gov. Sean Parnell by about 3,000 votes.
The state will begin counting the absentee and questioned ballots at several regional voting centers across the state on Tuesday.
Additional votes will be counted Friday and then next week, with a goal of certifying the election by Nov. 28.
The breakdown of votes to be counted includes 32,075 full absentee ballots and 2,443 partially voted absentee ballots; 2,651 early votes and 15,967 questioned ballots.
The number of questioned ballots could increase as the regional vote counting centers receive additional ballots by mail.
The final tally of absentee ballots also is likely to increase.
There are an additional 10,682 outstanding absentee ballots that will be counted if they are returned by the deadline. Ballots mailed from within the United States must be received by Friday. The deadline for ballots from other countries is Nov. 19.