From Sean Cockerham at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Anchorage --
Update, 6 p.m.:
Sen. Murkowski is about to have a news conference at her campaign headquarters.
Update, 5:09 p.m.:
It's looking bad for Lisa Murkowski.
The latest count of absentees increased Miller's lead to 1,469 votes. That's about 200 more votes for him than the last count. Fairbanks probably helped Miller, although the votes were also from Southeast and the Kenai Peninsula.
The Murkowski campaign was really counting on a big boost from Southeast.
That didn't happen. The latest batch was a count of 2,760 votes. It brings the total counted today to about 15,700 votes. Most were Republican primary votes that impact the Miller Murkowski race. The rest were Democratic and Libertarian votes. Still awaiting some more Kenai absentee votes and that will be all that is counted today.
The Division of Elections has an additional roughly 9,000 votes to process. Some will be disqualified and more absentees could come in so the numbers aren't firm. It's also not clear how many are for the Republican primary race and how many are Democratic. Most will be counted on Friday with a final count of largely overseas absentees on Sept. 8.
Today was the biggest chunk of votes. Murkowski has cut Miller's lead from 1,668 votes to 1,469 today. That's not nearly what the Murkowski campaign had hoped for.
Update, 4:22 p.m.:
Lisa Murkowski just slightly narrowed Joe Miller’s lead down to 1,210 votes with a new batch of absentee votes in from Southeast Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula and Fairbanks. Murkowski is going to have to start cutting into the lead by a far bigger margin soon or she’s going to be out.
Miller has 51,298 votes to 50,088 for Murkowski.
She's been steadily chipping away at Miller all day but not making the big gains she'd need to win.
The latest batch included 3,162 absentee votes. The Division of Elections has counted nearly 13,000 votes today, 9,000 of which have been Republican primary votes that impact the Miller-Murkowski race. Murkowski cut Miller’s lead down from 1,668 votes to 1,210 votes in that time.
About 3,000 more votes are expected today from Southeast Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula and the Fairbanks area.
The Division of Elections will have an additional roughly 9,000 votes to process for counts on Friday and Sept. 8. The number of remainign ballots isn’t firm because some more absentees are likely to come in and some votes will be disqualified. Also, not all those votes will be for the Republican primary.
See the updated results here.
Update, 3:20 p.m.:
Partial vote in from Southeast and the Kenai Peninsula, with Murkowki picking up 2 votes on Miller.
Miller leads by 1,292 votes. But that's with only about 1,300 votes coming in from Southeast and the Kenai so far, out of over 5,000 supposed to be counted today.
Nearly half of the tally in from southeast and the Kenai was for the Democratic primary, so there were only about 700 votes affecting the Miller-Murkowski race in the Republican primary.
The ballots just counted from Juneau and Kenai were questioned ballots. We're still waiting for the absentees from those areas.
Also waiting on first results of questioned and absentee ballots from Fairbanks.
So far, about 9,000 additional ballots have been counted today.
Update, 2:40 p.m.:
There is a lot of anticipation at the Division of Elections for the next round of numbers to come in. Those votes will be from Southeast Alaska (where the Murkowski campaign hopes to get a big boost) and from the Kenai Peninsula. There are a lot of absentee votes in those areas to be counted today (roughly 2,000 from Southeast and 2,300 or so from the Kenai.)
There are also 1,013 questioned ballots supposed to be counted today from Southeast and 502 from the Kenai Peninsula.
Murkowski needs to do well in the Juneau-Kenai results (which are reported together.) That’s because the next and final round of results today will come from the Fairbanks area, a Joe Miller stronghold.
There are 1,768 absentees and 996 questioned ballots supposed to be counted today from the Fairbanks area.
All these numbers of ballots to be counted are somewhat of a moving target. The Division of Elections can delay the count of ballots that it plans to do today until later days.
The Division of Elections said by the end of the day it will have counted about 16,000 votes.
There are another 9,000 or so to be processed for subsequent counts on Friday and Sept. 8. But those numbers will change as new absentees come in and some ballots are disqualified. Also, not all ballots are for the Republican primary. Some will be for the Democratic primary.
Update, 1:45 p.m.:
Votes from South Anchorage just helped Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski narrow Joe Miller’s lead to 1,294 votes with about half of today’s count of absentee and questioned ballots done.
Miller started off the day with a 1,668 vote lead.
So far, the Alaska Division of Elections has counted about 8.000 of the roughly 16,000 ballots it intended to tally today. There will be somewhere around 9,000 more ballots to process for additional counts scheduled for Friday and for Sept. 8.
We’re done with the Anchorage count for today, although Anchorage questioned ballots (at least about 3,000) and a small number of Anchorage absentees remain to be counted on a later day. Most the Mat-Su absentees have also been counted as part of today’s tally, although there an additional at least 1,200 questioned ballots from Mat-Su to be counted on a later day.
Juneau started counting at 1 p.m. and we should be getting its results soon. Fairbanks will start counting at 3 p.m.
Update, 12:20 p.m.:
Joe Miller's lead over Lisa Murkowski just grew slighly with absentee and questioned ballots from the Mat-Su.
Miller now leads Mukowski by 1,460 votes.
The Division of Elections reported counting 2,895 votes from Legislative Districts 13 through 16 in the Mat-Su.
Update, 11:10 a.m.:
Joe Miller's lead over Lisa Murkowski narrowed from 1,668 votes to 1,325 with the first count of absentee ballots this morning.
It looks like 2,391 votes were counted in this first batch. They're from Districts 17 through 26, all Anchorage.
More numbers to come.
Original post, 10:47 a.m.:
Counting of absentee ballots has begun in the Alaska Republican Senate race, with first results expected later this morning.
The first results will be from the Anchorage area. Counting also began at the Mat-Su elections office at 10 a.m.
Fairbanks is to start counting at 1 p.m.
Challenger Joe Miller leads incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski by 1,688 votes after regular ballots were counted on Election Day last Tuesday.
About 15,000 ballots are supposed to be counted today, the bulk of them from voters who cast absentee ballots.
I'll be updating through the day.