A new poll out Thursday shows GOP incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in a dead heat to keep her seat against Republican candidate Kelly Tshibaka, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. According to the poll from Fabrizio Ward and Impact Research, commissioned by AARP, Murkowski leads on the final round of balloting by a mere three votes among the 1,050 likely voters surveyed.
“It is an understatement to call that within the margin of error,” the pollsters wrote in their report, noting “10 percent of voters did not rank either of those candidates in the final round.”
The survey was conducted by phone with a +/- 4.4 percent margin of error between Sept. 6-11.
Under Alaska’s unusual and complicated ranked-choice voting system first used this year, the top four candidates from the open-party primary compete in the general election among voters, who “rank” their preferences on the ballot. If no candidate receives a majority, or 50 percent of the first-choice ballots case, the votes are re-tabulated again after eliminating the lowest vote-getter. The lost candidate’s ballots are then counted towards the voters’ second-choice pick, and the process is repeated until a candidate reaches more than 50 percent.
According to the AARP survey, Tshibaka holds a 13 percent lead over Murkowski with 43 percent of the vote to 35 percent, while Democrat Patricia Chesbro comes behind at 13 percent followed by Republican Buzz Kelley at 1 percent. Seven percent reported they were undecided.
Kelley dropped out of the race Monday and endorsed Tshibaka, who is also running with the support of the state party.
After eliminating Kelley on the second round of ballot tabulation, the race remained virtually unchanged, with Tshibaka in the lead with 46 percent to Murkowski’s 38 percent and Chesbro’s 14 percent. On the final round of ballot counting, however, Tshibaka and Murkowski are tied, with the incumbent lawmaker edging out her Republican opponent by three votes after Democrat ballots from Chesbro largely flow to Murkowski.
The AARP poll closely matches an internal survey the Tshibaka campaign told supporters about on a statewide call Monday, moments after Kelley dropped out of the contest and threw his support behind Tshibaka. According to the campaign’s internal poll conducted by Cygnal in August, Tshibaka leads on the first two rounds of ballot tabulation, only to lose by 0.2 percent in the final vote, well within the +/- 4.32 percent margin of error.
[READ: Alaska’s Ranked-Choice Voting Scheme Was A Plot To Save Murkowski, But It Also Doomed Palin]