There's still time to be an early bird.
Alaska Division of Elections offices in Anchorage and four other cities will be open for early voting this weekend for people who want to avoid Election Day lines but still want to see their vote appear on the first round of ballot results Tuesday night.
About 13,221 people had voted early as of Friday afternoon, said Division Director Gail Fenumiai. That's on pace to fall far short of the 24,512 who participated in early voting in 2008.
In another sign that turnout may be down in Alaska compared to the previous presidential election, the state mailed 45,769 absentee-by-mail ballots in 2008 but only 32,955 this year, Fenumiai said.
The 2008 ballot was loaded with heavyweight matchups, including Democrat Mark Begich versus Republican Ted Stevens in the U.S. Senate race and Democrat Ethan Berkowitz challenging Republican incumbent Don Young in the House. Sarah Palin's appearance on the presidential ticket heightened the drama.
"It's not as many (early voters) as we had when Sarah was running. They were up the steps. But it's busy," said Priscilla Fulford, an administrative clerk at the Division's regional election office in Wasilla.
In Anchorage, the place to cast an early ballot is 2525 Gambell Street, a glassy shoebox of an office building just south of Fireweed Lane. Election workers sat beside a table of pretzels and Tootsie Rolls at lunchtime Friday as 20 people thumbed their smart phones, waiting to show their ID.
Hillside resident Samantha Brow said she most recently tried to vote in the bungled April 3 Anchorage city elections. Her polling place ran out of ballots in that election, she said. This time she wasn't taking any chances.
Brow voted alongside a flight attendant who said she will be flying 30,000 feet above the ballot box on Election Day and a soldier who said he has to work Tuesday.
Including early voters, mail-in and in-person absentees and other kinds of early ballots, as many as 45,100 people have already cast ballots in the statewide election, Fenumiai said.
Of those, about 20,300 people received ballots by mail, more than 7,300 people had voted absentee in-person, and 1,800 participated in the state's new electronic voting option that allows people to download a ballot from a secure website, Fenumiai said.
Early voting continues through the weekend, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Regional Elections Offices in Anchorage, Juneau, Mat-Su, Fairbanks and Nome.
If you do not live in a district served by the regional office where you are voting, you will be asked to cast an absentee in-person ballot. Unlike early voting ballots, which will be counted on Election Day, absentee ballots are placed in an envelope and will be counted beginning Nov. 13, Fenumiai said.
All eligible votes will be counted within 15 days of the election, Fenumiai said.
Find more information on polling places and hours at www.elections.alaska.gov.
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