Anchorage held its first-ever vote-by-mail election earlier this year and it was a smashing success for turnout, but it’s caused confusion for the state’s upcoming Aug. 21 primary and Nov. 6 general elections.
With less than a month to go until a primary election that contains some pretty consequential battles, the Division of Elections sent out a reminder today that Alaska’s upcoming statewide elections will take place as they always have: in the voting booth.
“Anchorage voters will not vote by mail for the state primary and general elections,” explained the division announcement (emphasis theirs). “All Alaska voters, including Anchorage residents, will instead go to their polling place which can be located online here.”
Elections spokeswoman Samantha Miller said there’s regularly confusion about elections, but said that it’s been compounded by Anchorage’s switch to a vote-by-mail system for local elections. (That system will be used for the upcoming Aug. 7 special election to fill a vacant West Anchorage assembly seat.)
There were calls for that Anchorage’s vote-by-mail system to be used for the state elections this year, but such a change was quickly ruled out because it would require changes in state law by the Alaska Legislature.
“We will continue to conduct precinct-based elections based on current Alaska law,” said State Elections Director Josie Bahnke in the announcement.
By-mail absentee ballots
Casting a vote by mail in Alaska’s primary and general elections is possible, but it takes a little extra work.
Voters can apply a by-mail absentee ballot through the Division of Elections for any reason through mail, fax or email up to 10 days before an election. This year, those requests must be received by the Division of Elections by Aug. 11 for the primary election and Oct. 27 for the general election and you’ll need to file separate applications for each election.
The state’s election policy work group is considering changes to the state’s election system that may include transitioning the state to a vote-by-mail system. There’s significant concern about how a vote-by-mail system would work in practice in rural Alaska, which is driving consideration of a hybrid system that could allow different voting methods for different parts of the state. Another alternate change being considered by the group would give voters an option of making the by-mail absentee registration permanent.