Signs of August in Alaska include fireweed, silver salmon, Alaska State Fair ads and campaign signs. Campaign signs have cropped up because the state primary election date is Aug. 21. Winning candidates in the primary election will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot; November winners will head to either Juneau or to Washington, D.C., to represent all of us in the Alaska Legislature, governor's office, and U.S. Congress.
Election officials at the state and local levels have been working hard to adapt voting methods to match our Alaska lifestyle and to keep our elections safe and secure. For instance, the Municipality of Anchorage recently overhauled the local election system for the city, conducting a successful vote-by-mail process in April, which resulted in increased voter participation. In this year's municipal election, people received ballots in the mail and mailed them back or dropped them in an official drop box. While the new vote-by-mail system used in Anchorage was highly successful, it is not yet available for use in the upcoming statewide primary and general elections. Instead, the August and November statewide elections will use the traditional process, requiring us to appear at our neighborhood polling places to vote, as we've always done in the past.
The great news is there are opportunities to vote early, either in person or by mail, in the upcoming August and November elections. Here is what you need to know. Until Aug. 11, all registered voters can apply to get an absentee ballot sent by mail. It's easy and you can apply online. The deadline to apply for a general-election-only absentee ballot is Oct. 22.
With one single form, voters can request a ballot for both the primary and general elections — a great convenience for people who are planning to travel in August or are heading out hunting, as well as people with jobs and students away at college. Early vote/absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day.
Here are important dates:
August 6-21 — Early in-person voting at specified locations (State Elections Office and City Hall);
August 11 – Last day to apply for absentee ballots for the primary election;
August 21 – ELECTION DAY – at your local precinct or at Ted Stevens Airport;
October 22 – Last day to apply for absentee ballot for the general election only.
Ballots for all 40 districts will be available at early vote locations. For exact voting hours, including some weekends, check out the full listing online.
Voting is a right and a privilege and there are many convenient ways to participate in the upcoming election. Just as we count on the salmon and berries, we can count on primary elections in August, and maintaining a functioning democracy counts on us to participate. Do your part and make a plan for how and when you will vote in the primary, and put it on your August calendar along with all your other favorite late-summer Alaska activities.
Margaret McDonagh is the president of the Anchorage chapter of the League of Women Voters.
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