Alaska has rolled out a new electronic voting system this year, a boon for absentee voters, or folks who dread heading down to the polls on Election Day. But in its first year, the system isn't flawless, and takes some navigating to figure out.
Here's your cheat sheet to submitting your vote electronically in Alaska.
Heads up: you will need a printer and a scanner, or a fax machine in order to complete the electronic ballot. If you lack those, you'll need to go to the polls.
What you need to do before 5 p.m. Monday
Print off this form.
Fill out all the information on the second page. Make sure to include your email address, and sign at the bottom.
Either scan and email the form to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax the form back to 1-907-677-9937.
If you are in Anchorage, you can also head to their Anchorage Office at 619 E. Ship Creek Ave., Suite 329 Anchorage, AK 99501-1677 and give it to them in person.
Congratulations, you have completed the application to receive your ballot electronically.
Now, you wait.
Next: Follow the link
You'll receive an email confirmation within 24-48 hours; I got mine in less than 12 hours.
The link in the email takes you to a secure login page with the State of Alaska.
Once you're logged in, you're met with a page that explains the system and a button that lets you start filling out your ballot.
Fill out your ballot on the secured site. It looks just like a paper ballot. The presidential election comes first, etc.
After you've got your ballot filled out, press the "download your ballot" button. The ballot downloads as a zip file that contains the completed ballot and an affidavit.
You will, however, need to print the affidavit, too, and sign it with a witness present to verify and also sign that you are the actual registered voter who is sending in the ballot.
After you do this, scan the affidavit.
Next, rename your files:
Ballot_LAST NAME_FIRST NAME
Affidavit_LAST NAME_FIRST NAME
If you forget this step like I did - don't worry. Your vote won't be invalidated. But renaming your files will help election officials who receive it on their server.
Now, it's time to upload. On the website, you'll see a box to your ballot and affidavit. Upload them. They'll appear with your name and the document title once they've been uploaded.
Now, click "Vote Your Ballot." There's no going back once you've hit this button.
And you're done! Phew.
Another heads up:
You won't be taken to a "voting completed page", or "congratulations for voting" confirmation. The system kicks you back to the beginning of the process, but your documents show as being uploaded. Don't worry about it (like I did). Once your documents are uploaded, you are good to go.
Feeling paranoid? You can call your Regional Office to double check that they have received your vote.
And one more thing to note: By casting your ballot via their online system, you are waiving "a portion of my right to a secret ballot to the extent necessary to process" the ballot. But voters can should expect that their votes will be kept "as confidential as possible." That means an election official who is counting the ballots may see your vote, as your ballot will be printed off and counted in the same way as absentee ballots mailed in; the online system is the electronic submission of an absentee ballot.
The Division of Elections keeps a hard copy record of all electronic and mailed in absentee votes for 48 months, as required by law. The electronic copies of the ballots will be wiped clean from the server in the next few months.
Tougher than filing for a PFD
Make sure not to mail your ballot in, or take any additional voting steps. If you do, it will count as an attempt to vote twice, and that's a federal crime.
While the state's new system is a step in the right direction, it is far more cumbersome to complete than applying for your Permanent Fund Dividend online. Still, for voters who prefer to stay home on Election Day, this is one, almost-easy way to cast your vote.
Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com