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Recount of Anchorage mayoral ballots begins

Posted: Tuesday, April 22, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Election workers in Anchorage have started recounting more than 63,000 ballots cast for mayor April 1.

The process began Monday on the request of losing incumbent George Wuerch.

Complicating the matter is the so-called ''Mickey Mouse ballot.''

At issue is the question of whether to count ballots cast for a candidate not qualified to be mayor -- for example, a protest vote for Mickey Mouse. The total vote number affects the percentage each candidate gets.

Lawyers for former Anchorage Assemblyman Mark Begich, who was only 18 votes past the 45 percent threshold needed to win the mayor's office, said any Mickey Mouse ballots should be disqualified. Fewer total votes would likely increase Begich's percentage of the whole.

Lawyers for Wuerch, who hopes to force Begich to a runoff election May 6, said all ballots should stay in, possibly dropping Begich's proportion below the 45 percent threshold.

The race for Anchorage mayor has been in limbo since the election. For two weeks, Begich was just below the 45 percent mark. Wuerch got 37.5 percent of the votes, second in a field of several candidates, including former Mayor Rick Mystrom.

A count of 4,367 absentee and questioned ballots April 14 gave Begich 45.03 percent. That put him 4,989 votes ahead of Wuerch and just 18 votes past 45 percent.

The recount, in a City Hall conference room, is proceeding at about 500 ballots an hour. Acting Municipal Clerk Linda Heim said it will likely be complete by Wednesday.

Heim said she intends to include the 79 write-in ballots in the overall count. She is keeping track of the total number of ballots that may broadly fit the Mickey Mouse category.

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