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'Mystery' ballot rejected, crucial Alaska contest separated by one vote

NBC News logo NBC News 12/3/2018 Allan Smith
© James Brooks

It could come down to a coin flip.

Control of Alaska's House for the next two years rests on the razor-thin race between Republican Barton LeBon and Democrat Kathryn Dodge. Following a Friday recount, LeBon held a one-vote lead over Dodge. Entering that recount, the candidates were in a dead heat with 2,661 votes each.

At the time, a mystery ballot marked for Dodge and found by an election worker at a Fairbanks voting precinct appeared likely to play a crucial role in determining the outcome, but that voted was tossed Friday after election officials determined it belonged to a voter who had made a mistake and then submitted a new ballot.

The stakes are high. If LeBon hangs on to win, Republicans would control the entire state government — the House, Senate and governor's mansion. If Dodge wins, parties would scramble to form a coalition majority in the House.

It all has a familiar ring to Alaska House Democratic Speaker Bryce Edgmon, who won his tied 2006 primary by a coin toss before being elected to the Statehouse later that year.

"The twists and turns involved in this Dodge, LeBon race are incredible," he told NBC News.

Edgmon said is almost certain this contest will be determined by the courts and may not be settled until as late as early January, he said.

Dodge has five days to decide whether she will file a legal challenge to the outcome. The Democrat said she would "think on things" following the Friday recount, the Juneau Empire reported.

a couple of people posing for the camera: Image: Bart Lebon and Kathryn Dodge © Eric Engman; Sam Harrel/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP file Image: Bart Lebon and Kathryn Dodge

Should the race remain tied after the recount and legal proceedings, the winner would be determined by a coin toss. "I've come too far to have a coin toss settle this," LeBon said, according to the Associated Press.

The situation is strikingly similar to a 2017 Virginia Statehouse race that was determined by drawing names out of a container in January. That contest also determined control of the Virginia House.

Republican David Yancey was named the victor after his name was selected, giving Republicans a 51-49 majority in the Statehouse.

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