Still have your absentee ballot? Make a plan to drop it off

Is your mail-in absentee ballot one of the 52,651 that have yet to be cast and returned to the state of Alaska? You’ll need to plan to drop it instead of relying on the mail because as of Wednesday, it’s too late to guarantee that it will be postmarked by election day and counted.

The United States Postal Service and Alaska elections officials recommended mailing your ballot by Tuesday to ensure it’s postmarked by election day and received by the state in time to be counted. Ballots that aren’t postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received by the Alaska Division of Elections by Nov. 16 won’t be opened and counted under state law.

Instead, you can drop off your absentee mail-in ballot at one of the 11 secure drop boxes in Alaska or at any polling location now through election day.

It’s important to remember that absentee ballots will not be counted until a week after election day, meaning we will not have close to a clear look at the results on election night (both for Alaska races and likely for the national presidential race).

If you want your vote to be among those tallied on election night, you can cast a ballot at one of the early vote locations from this list through Oct. 29. Having requested an absentee ballot does not prohibit you from voting in-person if you so choose. If you do vote in-person, the Division of Elections asks you destroy your mail-in ballot.

More than 120,000 Alaskans have requested by-mail ballots this year, triple what Alaska saw during the last presidential election. While voting by-mail has seen unprecedented interest, it has its challenges in Alaska.

Because Alaska’s size, it can take several additional days for mail to arrive in Anchorage where the state’s mail sorting machines are located which means it most mail won’t be postmarked the day it’s dropped in the mailbox.

In this year’s primary election 396 ballots were rejected for being postmarked after election day, the second leading cause for ballot rejections during the primary election.

The leading cause of ballot rejections, the failure to have another person witness the signature, was waived for this election by the Alaska Supreme Court after a lawsuit brought on behalf of several plaintiffs argued that it improperly burdened people’s right to vote during the pandemic.

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