Ballots start heading to Alaska voters this week in special US House primary election

Absentee ballots being scanned for tabulation at the Division of Elections Region II office in Anchorage on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. (Photo by Bill Roth / ADN)

Ballots for Alaska’s first-ever statewide by-mail election will be sent to about 560,000 Alaska voters Wednesday.

In the special primary election, voters will be asked to pick one of 48 candidates vying to temporarily fill the U.S. House of Representatives seat vacated by the March death of Congressman Don Young. The top four vote-getters will advance to the Aug. 16 special general election, which will use ranked-choice voting to determine who will serve out the rest of Young’s term.

Ballots for the primary will begin arriving in the mailboxes of Alaska voters this week.

The nonpartisan, open primary is Alaska’s first under a new statewide election system approved by voters in 2020.

In this election, voters are being asked to pick one candidate, then mail their ballot back to the Division of Elections before June 11, the official election day. Ballots can arrive at division offices as late as June 21 and will still be counted, but only if they are postmarked on or before June 11.

Gail Fenumiai, director of the Alaska Division of Elections, said the division sent a postcard reminder last week.

Normally, Alaska voters who want to cast a ballot by mail must first request an absentee ballot from the division.

In March, Fenumiai and other state officials said there was no feasible way, given the suddenness of Young’s death and the short timeline required by state law, to conduct a traditional election.

Instead, the division is automatically sending ballots to all registered voters, and those ballots are going out 45 days before Election Day. The state is also paying postage.

Some in-person polling places will be available, Fenumiai said, and polling locations will be announced Wednesday. Many of those polling places will be open for multiple days.

Elections officials are encouraging voters to check their listed address online at myvoterinformation.alaska.gov. If the address is incorrect, update it at voterregistration.alaska.gov. Users will need an Alaska driver’s license or other state ID.

Though ballots will have already been mailed, the division will send a second ballot to the updated address, Fenumiai said. Officials will be tracking both ballots to prevent double voting, she said.

The online registry lists whether a ballot has been sent to a particular voter and whether that voter’s ballot has been received by the Division of Elections.

Fenumiai said that in the coming days, the division will be joining BallotTrax, a system that allows voters to get text, email and phone alerts when their ballot has been received by the division. (The Municipality of Anchorage used BallotTrax in this year’s city election.) Information will be posted on the division’s website when available, she said.

Elections officials will be posting incremental updates on the number of ballots received before Election Day, she said. The first results will be posted on the evening of June 11, and the final results will be available June 21, with final review and certification expected by June 24.

Anchorage Daily News

Anchorage Daily News is our partner in Anchorage. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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