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Alaska's 2004 election certified, but recount possible
U.S. SENATE: Murkowski's margin is solid, but a group in Fairbanks has its doubts.

The Associated Press

(Published: December 4, 2004) 
The head of the state Division of Elections certified the 2004 general election Friday, saying a record number of Alaskans turned out to vote.

Director Laura Glaiser said 314,502 ballots were cast in the Nov. 2 election, according to a final tally completed Thursday night by a nonpartisan state review board.

That number represents 66.6 percent of 472,160 registered voters in Alaska, according to Glaiser. Tom Godkin, elections administration supervisor, said that's the highest turnout since 1992, when almost 83 percent of Alaska's 315,058 registered voters went to the polls.

"We're really glad to have such a high turnout this year," Godkin said. "It makes us feel better about what we do, that our hard work is being benefited by the voters in the state."

There were no surprises in the official count.

President Bush remained the hands-down choice among Alaskans, receiving 190,889 votes in the state, almost 62 percent. Democrat John Kerry received 111,025 votes, more than 35 percent.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Republican incumbent, still held an edge of three percentage points over Democrat Tony Knowles, collecting 149,446 votes, more than 48 percent, to Knowles' 139,878 votes, more than 45 percent.

Despite the unwavering margin between Murkowski and Knowles, a Fairbanks group said it still wants a recount of votes cast in that race.

Recount Alaska 2004 is seeking donations to pay for the $10,000 required by the state to cover recount costs in statewide races. The state requires the money up front. Candidates can request a recount at the state's expense in races with a vote difference of less than 0.5 percent.

The group has collected $3,000 so far, according to its Web site.

Any candidate or group of at least 10 voters can request a recount but must do within five days of the review board certifying the results, in this case by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Sean McGuire, a member of Recount Alaska, said the group is suspicious about the outcome. He said exit polls put Knowles in the lead and that the AccuVote scanners that optically count most ballots cast in Alaska have proven inconsistent elsewhere.

"Considering the stakes, I feel very, very uncomfortable taking these machines' word for it," McGuire said. "It would be so easy for these machines to be wrong. That just seems basic to me."

Godkin said he considers AccuVote scanners reliable. They have been used in Alaska since 1998.

"We're very comfortable with the AccuVote," he said. "And we always have the paper ballots as backup to check."

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