Alaskans can now apply online to vote by mail

The Alaska Division of Elections has launched a new online application process for absentee ballots, making it easier for voters to cast ballots by mail in this year’s Aug. 18 primary election and Nov. 3 general election.

Before the change, the state required absentee voters to fill out a paper form and mail it to the Division of Elections. Voters whose applications are approved receive their absentee ballot by mail from the division and can cast it by mail. The paper application process is still available as an alternative to the online form.

Alaska law allows voters to cast absentee ballots for any reason.

The new online application is part of a campaign by the state to encourage voting by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has created concerns that voting in person could spread the virus, and the state is experiencing a shortage of poll workers.

While Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer said he has ruled out conducting the Aug. 18 primary entirely by mail, state elections officials are encouraging Alaskans to vote by mail voluntarily.

Alaska plans to send paper absentee ballot applications to all registered voters who are at least 65 years old. State officials have said that older Alaskans are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and may not be comfortable with an online application. But some legislators have criticized that plan, saying that paper absentee ballot applications should be sent instead to all voters.

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James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.