The special primary for Alaska’s only seat in the US House moved ahead as planned on Saturday after a tense legal battle over access to the polls cast a shadow over the election.
The legal drama was the latest twist in an already extraordinary election, filled with 48 candidates running for the seat vacated by US Representative Don Young, who died in March. Young, a Republican, held the seat for 49 years.
The state division of elections late Saturday released the vote count from the elections, which were mainly held by mail. Saturday marked the first count of votes; additional counts are scheduled for Wednesday and Friday, with the last count on June 21.
Early results showed Republican former administration Sarah Palin at 29.8%; Republican Nick Begich with 19.3%; independent Al Gross at 12.5%, and Democrat Mary Peltola at 7.5%.
Republican Tara Sweeney had 5.3%, while a self-proclaimed “independent, progressive, Democratic socialist” named Santa Claus had 4.5%.
The early count released by the division included 108,729 votes. It was not clear how many ballots were still open; the division reported late Friday afternoon that it had received about 130,000 ballots. The ballots had to be stamped before Saturday.
Saturday’s election was the first in a system approved by voters in 2020 that ends party primaries and uses ranked electoral votes in general elections.
The top four candidates in the special primaries will advance to a special election in August, when the rankings will be voted.
The Associated Press has not named any winners in the special primaries.
Palin released a statement expressing his gratitude “to all my amazing supporters who voted to make Alaska great again!”
Earlier Saturday, the Alaska Supreme Court overturned a lower court order prohibiting state election officials from certifying primary election results until visually impaired voters were given a “full and fair” chance to participate.
State lawyers had interpreted Friday’s order from Supreme Court Justice Una Gandbhir as an impediment to election officials from completing the vote as scheduled on Saturday. They asked the Supreme Court to reverse the order.
The ruling came in a case filed days earlier by Robert Corbisier, executive director of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights. Corbisier sued state election officials on behalf of a person identified as BL, a registered voter in Anchorage with a visual impairment.