Elections officials see strong turnout for early voting across Alaska

An early voting location at the Division of Elections’s Region II office in midtown Anchorage (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

An early voting location at the Division of Elections’ Region II office in midtown Anchorage (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)

Across the country, the number of people voting early in the general election is up. It’s not clear from the numbers yet whether Alaskans are keeping pace with that trend. But people on the ground say it’s the busiest election they’ve seen.

Around lunch-time, Martha Upicksoun came to the Division of Elections’ regional office in midtown Anchorage to vote. But then, she turned around and walked back toward the parking lot.

“The line is to the door,” Upicksoun said. Sure enough, the line snaked down a hallway and into the vestibule, with people crowding inside to get away from the cold.

Upicksoun calls herself a “super-voter,” someone who dutifully turns out for every election. But this is the first time in forty years of casting ballots she’s trying to do it before Election Day.

“I’ve been hearing about early voters, I’ve been following the predictions,” she said. “I just thought ‘well, I think I’m going to give it a try.’”

Upicksoun isn’t annoyed by the long line but has other errands to run and thinks the polling site will be less busy later on. If not, she says she’ll try one of the other locations around the municipality.

Another early voter, Michele Pamer, was in an upbeat mood even though she waited 40 minutes to cast her ballot. But she had to vote today, she explained because she’s “out of time.”

“I have too many obligations next Tuesday — taking seniors to vote!” Pamer said.

Pamer votes in every election, which is also the case for Richard Miller, who said his 15-minute wait was completely painless.

“Normally I vote on Election Day, but I knew I was going be out of town,” Miller said. “So I came down to do it.”

He’s voted at this site in the past, he said and added, “This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen here.”

That seems to be the consensus around Anchorage, and around the state. As of Thursday, 45,794 Alaskans had voted, according to figures from the Division of Elections. That’s only about half the number of early votes cast in the last presidential election in 2012 — 99,684 total. But there are a few days left, including a weekend, and ballots are still pouring in by mail.

Local and state officials say that from their perspective, the early returns are “strong.”

“It’s an exciting election,” said Julie Hussman, supervisor for the state’s elections operations in Anchorage.

Hussman said her staff is processing more than 2,000 ballots a day at sites across the municipality. She doesn’t have the hard numbers, but it looks busier than past elections in Alaska she’s overseen.

Despite the uptick, she isn’t hearing about any problems from voters.

“People have not complained,” she said by phone. “The people have been great.”

Voters are generally waiting 15 to 20 minutes in Anchorage, according to Hussman.

Early voting hours and locations can be found here.

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