Alaska primary election is Tuesday: How and where to vote, who you can vote for and what the turnout's looking like

Alaska's primary election is Tuesday.

There isn't a high-profile federal race like in 2014, when nearly $7 million was spent by Outside groups to influence the Republican party primary for the U.S. Senate seat now held by U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan.

But there are still two congressional races — one for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Lisa Murkowski, and the other for Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young's House seat — and a bevy of state legislative races featuring energetic candidates and heavy spending by union and business groups.

Wondering where to vote? Or who you can vote for? We cover the basics below.

When are the polls open? You can vote between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Election Day. Look up your polling place here

Can I still register to vote? No. The registration deadline was in mid-July, 30 days before the election.

I work a 12-hour shift on Tuesday. Can I vote on Monday instead? Yes. The state Division of Elections has 180 early voting locations around the state, from city clerks' offices to community centers to a half-dozen private homes where the state has hired elections officials.


Most of the early voting locations are open Monday through Friday, and require voters to be residents of the district of that polling place in order to cast your ballot in local races. But the state also has a dozen offices, in cities and hub communities, that have ballots for all 40 districts, and some of them are open over the weekend.

Search for locations near you here.

This election season has been so dispiriting I can't even find the motivation to leave my house. Can I still vote? Yes. You have until 5 p.m. Monday to request an electronic ballot that can be returned by fax or email. Information about electronic voting is available on the state elections division website.

Who are my candidates? Look up your current legislators using the Sunlight Foundation's database at, which will tell you the House and Senate districts in which you live. Then, you can find the primary candidates for each district at the state elections division's website.

Which primary races can I vote in? By law, Alaska's political parties choose who they let participate in their primary elections.

Republicans in 1992 closed their primary to members of other parties, leaving their ballot open for voting by members of the GOP, as well as nonpartisan or undeclared voters.

Following a legal challenge by activist Mike O'Callaghan — described by the Anchorage Daily News at the time as a "simple-living, sandals-and-beads crusader" and amateur lawyer who represented himself — the Alaska Supreme Court in 1996 rejected the closed primary used by Republicans.

The court's decision said the state's interest in promoting participation in elections outweighed Republicans' interest in limiting ballot access. But the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 2000 ruling written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, superseded that decision in favor of allowing parties the choice of a closed primary. The ruling said it wasn't the government's role to try to boost participation.

Now, only registered Republicans and undeclared and nonpartisan voters can choose a Republican primary ballot. Democratic, Libertarian and Alaska Independence candidates appear on a combined ballot that can be requested by any registered voter.

How will this year's turnout compare to the last nongubernatorial primary, in 2012? State elections officials say to expect this year's turnout to be lower than average — and by one yardstick, it's down sharply.

Residents requested 8,600 mail-in absentee ballots this year, compared to 13,300 in the 2012 primary. The deadline for requesting a by-mail absentee ballot has already passed.

"Voter turnout's going to be lower than average," said Josie Bahnke, the state elections director.

How much does it cost the state to run the primary in a presidential year? Bahnke said the cost is about $2 million.

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage-based independent journalist Nathaniel Herz has been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. Read his newsletter, Northern Journal, at