Last-minute bump in ballots points to high turnout in Anchorage election

This story has been updated. See the current version here. 

A flood of last-minute ballots in Anchorage's first-ever vote-by-mail election has propelled turnout beyond what it was in the last mayoral election in 2015, according to data from the city clerk's office.

As of about 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the last day to vote, elections officials had received roughly 63,000 ballots. That includes ballots mailed in, placed in drop boxes and filled out at a few vote centers. Anchorage has about 218,000 registered voters.

At the moment, this election's vote tally is still short of the all-time highs of around 70,000 votes cast in the city's 2012 and 2006 mayoral elections.

Pitched as a secure way to boost turnout while reducing election costs, a vote-by-mail election largely replaces the dozens of polling places that fanned out into neighborhood schools, churches and senior centers, staffed by poll workers.

About 58,000 people voted in the 2015 and 2009 general mayoral races.

But thousands more ballots could be returned by the end of the day. And most ballots cast on Election Day won't be processed and counted until at least the end of the day Wednesday, officials said — meaning that results posted Tuesday night will be far from final.

[Where the candidates stand in the 2018 Anchorage election]

Last week, candidates and campaign strategists were expressing disappointment with the pace of the turnout, but some also predicted a rush at the end.

Ballots being returned in the mail have to be postmarked on Tuesday, the official Election Day. The USPS office at the Anchorage airport is open until 11 p.m. Elections officials said voters who elect to send a ballot in the mail should ask a postal worker to postmark the return envelope.

Voters in line at drop boxes by 8 p.m. on Tuesday will be able to return ballots.

The city's five vote centers — at the Loussac Library, City Hall, the Ship Creek election headquarters, O'Malleys on the Green in South Anchorage and the Eagle River Town Center — are also open until 8 p.m.

Procrastinating? Here's everything you need to know about the ballot.

Note: An earlier version of this story misstated the location of one of the accessible vote centers. It is Eagle River Town Center, not the Eagle River Senior Center.