Since statehood, Alaskans have joked about the laughable prospect that a presidential election might be decided by Alaska's three electoral votes.
But don't worry. No way. Couldn't happen. But if it did, the nation would be waiting for weeks for the final vote tabulations to come in from some outlying polling places in rural Alaska.
Laugh no longer. That might have been true back in the days when Alaska became the 49th State, and vote counting was by hand and some precincts weren't heard from for days at a time.
Times have changed.
Had this year's presidential race come down to Alaska voters, this election would be history. It would be over and done with. In the books. Not now. But back then -- the evening of election day itself.
Unlike Florida, where the process of counting votes -- and even casting them in the first place -- became a national scandal, Alaska has cleaned up its election process.
The new Accu-Vote computer ballots, used in 281 of Alaska's 451 precincts, have proved to be both accurate and fast. Results are in seemingly within minutes of the closing of the polls. The hand-counting of ballots in the 170 precincts where the Accu-Vote system is not yet in place involves mostly very small villages in rural Alaska -- and there, too, even manual tabulation is swift. It doesn't take long to tally 50 or 60 ballots.
This new system, which replaced punch-card ballots in the state's major urban areas, passed its first test with flying colors two years ago.
And it worked like a whiz again this election day.
The state's Division of Elections, operating in the office of the lieutenant governor, did a great job.
We should offer its services on a contract basis to Florida the next time around.
If the tabulation of the votes in this presidential race had been in Alaska's hands, it would have been over before dawn on the morning after the election.
Even the television networks would have been able to call the outcome correctly.
-- Voice of The (Anchorage) Times
November 24: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on highway route for gas pipeline:
The beauty of routing a natural-gas pipeline along the Alaska Highway is it actually enhances other North Slope gas commercialization projects.
Let's start with a given: The new pipeline can and should be sized not only to deliver gas to the Lower 48, but also to feed several other likely uses.
Potential piggy-back projects range from exporting shipments of liquefied natural gas to Pacific Rim customers to supplying Anchorage utility customers. These Alaska Highway gas-line scenarios position Fairbanks as a major delivery and operations hub, serving local commercial and residential users, supporting a spur line to Anchorage and, possibly, a petrochemical or gas-to-liquid conversion plant.
Some may scoff at the notion that Fairbanks might attract a major gas-processing facility, but Gov. Tony Knowles counts himself as a believer, citing the higher costs associated with building and operating similar plants on the North Slope. Clean diesel and other GTL products produced in Fairbanks could be batched and shipped to Valdez in the existing trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The Alaska Railroad offers another readily available shipping option for petro-chemical products unsuitable for delivery through TAPS.
Sen. Frank Murkowski, whose position as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee gives him great expertise in the subject, has made similar observations. The senator also makes the point that the commerce associated with the proposed gas pipeline strengthens the case for a new rail connection between the Lower 48 and Interior Alaska.
Representatives of the All-Alaska Gasline Port Authority were among the first to point out the cost benefits of an Alaska Highway-route pipeline supplying gas to both the Lower 48, as well as feeding a spur line to a LNG plant in Valdez. While the overall expenses of the project swelled to some $25 billion, the economics of LNG exports are greatly improved by splitting the costs of the Deadhorse-to-Delta portion of the main gas pipeline.
Port Authority lawyers contend the piggy-back approach allows for LNG exports on a scale more modest than would be dictated by the large investment in a stand-alone gas pipeline to Valdez. Timing considerations are less critical in a smaller LNG project, because Pacific Rim utilities and other potential customers are less likely to be swamped.
The governor says he'll ask the Legislature for a special appropriation of $4 million to keep the gas-line project on track. He also intends to seek a change in state law extending gas commercialization incentives, already on the books for a LNG project, to gas pipeline or GTL projects.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner supports the appropriation and the consideration of tax incentives for a gas pipeline. We do not at this time favor amending the 1998 Stranded Gas Development Act to extend tax incentives for a GTL project; we remain concerned that some within the industry might seize the opening to scuttle gas-pipeline plans in favor of converting gas, through inefficient means, into GTL products suitable for transport through the existing oil pipeline. We view this is a serious threat; too generous incentives spurring North Slope GTL processing on a large scale could kill the current momentum for a gas pipeline.
Alaskans patiently watched as industry invested in gas projects elsewhere. Now that the market has finally turned our way, we need to be wary of ventures locking the state any one gas commercialization technology.
We say let the Alaska Highway-bound gas line come first. It's the one route preserving a full range of gas development options, including GTL projects returning a fair value for Alaska's gas.
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