2020 is a big general election, in Alaska and across the United States. There’s a lot on the ballot, starting with the presidential election.
Alaskans will choose a U.S. senator and their lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Fifty-one of the 60 seats in the Alaska Legislature are up for election.
Two contentious ballot measures are on the ballot — one involves Alaska’s oil production taxes and the other would change the way Alaska elections are conducted.
Alaskans also are voting whether to retain a list of state judges and a justice on the Alaska Supreme Court.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, a growing number of residents are looking for ways to vote that don’t involve going to the polls on Election Day. More than 115,000 Alaskans had requested absentee ballots by Oct. 13.
Here’s a guide to voting in Alaska in an unusual election year.
Are you registered?
Before you vote, you must be registered with the state. You can check your status online. The deadline to register was Oct. 4, but most Alaskans are automatically re-registered each year when they apply for a Permanent Fund dividend.
Anyone who registers after Oct. 4 can still vote for president and vice president, but not other offices.
Where can I get information about the candidates and issues?
The state has posted sample ballots online to show you what your ballot will look like. There’s a different ballot for every House district, and you can find both your polling place and your House district online.
We’re all getting barraged with mailers and advertisements. The state’s official elections pamphlet has been posted online, with information on candidates and the ballot measures. It’s being mailed to registered voters. The Daily News has published an extensive set of issue questions and answers with candidates for Congress and those running for the Alaska Legislature in Anchorage, Mat-Su and on the Kenai Peninsula. The candidate Q&As are also presented further down in this article as well.
I want to vote in person. How do I do that?
Early voting: Polls open at 8 a.m. on Oct. 19 at a limited number of sites statewide. In Anchorage, you can vote at the Midtown Mall (600 E. Northern Lights Blvd.) or Anchorage City Hall (632 W. 6th Ave.).
Additional polling places open as Election Day gets closer. The UAA Student Union (3211 Providence Dr.) will host a polling place on Monday, Nov. 2, and on Election Day, a special polling place will open at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport for travelers.
On Election Day itself, the state plans to operate more than 400 polling places across Alaska.
If you go to the polls in person, be prepared to show ID. If you don’t have ID, you can use a pay stub, bank statement or utility bill if it shows both your name and address.
If you don’t want to vote in person, you can vote absentee by mail.
What do I do if I want to vote by mail?
Anyone can vote absentee by mail in Alaska, but they must sign up to do so. If you want a blank ballot sent to you, the state must get your request by Oct. 24. (The U.S. Postal Service recommends signing up by Oct. 20.)
If you don’t have an Alaska driver’s license, you have to fill out an alternate form and attach a copy of your out-of-state license, passport or other state ID.
Alaskans living outside the United States can have a blank ballot emailed to them instead.
If you have problems, call the state’s absentee voting office at (907) 270-2700.
What about city and borough elections?
Most cities and boroughs vote either in the spring or voted earlier in the fall. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Denali Borough do vote on Nov. 3.
If you live in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough you need to fill out a separate vote-by-mail application if you want to vote by mail for Assembly and School Board. The Denali Borough is planning to automatically send ballots by mail to residents.
How do I track my application?
You can check online to see whether the state has sent you a blank ballot and whether it has received the ballot that you filled out and sent back to elections officials.
What do I do when I get my ballot in the mail?
Inside the envelope, you’ll find a ballot, a return envelope, instructions and a gray “secrecy sleeve.” Fill out your ballot, put it in the secrecy sleeve, and put the sleeve inside the envelope. It’s important to fill out all the information on the outside of the envelope, because the state won’t count your vote if that information is missing.
You’ll need to sign the return envelope.
The ballot’s written instructions will tell you that you need to have a co-signer at least 18 years old, but state judges have suspended that rule during the pandemic. You can still do it, but there’s no penalty if you don’t — your ballot will still be counted unless there’s another problem.
You’ll need to provide your own stamp to mail the ballot back to the Division of Elections.
The Postal Service recommends that you mail your ballot no later than 7 days before Election Day. State law says that as long as your ballot is postmarked by Election Day and arrives no later than 10 days after Election Day, it will be counted. (Ballots mailed from overseas can arrive up to 15 days after Election Day.)
I don’t want to return my absentee ballot by mail. Can I submit it in person?
Yes. There are eight ballot dropboxes in Southcentral Alaska, one in Juneau and one in Fairbanks. You also can also drop off a completed ballot (in its sealed envelope) at any early voting site.
How do I know my ballot has been counted?
You can check online to see if it’s been received by the Division of Elections, but there’s no way to know whether your ballot was counted until after the election. The division is required by state law to send a letter to every Alaskan whose absentee ballot was rejected.
What can I do if I don’t think the state will get my ballot on time?
Use a ballot dropbox or deposit your absentee ballot at an early voting site instead of mailing it.
If you already mailed your ballot and vote in person on Election Day, the state will count the in-person vote and throw out the absentee ballot if it arrives.
Elections officials don’t advise doing this. Intentionally voting twice is a felony, and state law requires the division to send a list of everyone with two votes to the Alaska Department of Law. During the primary election, the names of 84 people ended up on that list.
Department of Law officials said they are not aware of any cases where someone was prosecuted for doing this.
Overviews of the ballot measures and video debates (Ballot Measure 2 debate will be added the week of Oct. 19):
2020 Alaska election guide: Q&As with candidates for Congress, legislature
The Anchorage Daily News invited the candidates for U.S. Senate and U.S. House, as well as those running for the Alaska Legislature in Southcentral Alaska, to give their views on key issues and to discuss their priorities if elected. Many of the questions came from readers.
Below are the candidates, by district. We have invited those who did not respond to the survey to do that so voters know where they stand on issues and know what their priorities are.
D = Democrat; R = Republican; L = Libertarian; AIP = Alaskan Independence Party; NP = Nonpartisan; NA = Non-affiliated; U = Undeclared
Congressional candidate Q&As include video interviews by Alaska Public Media
Senate District D (Mat-Su)
David Wilson* (R) (Did not respond)
Senate District F (Palmer-Chugiak)
Senate District H (Anchorage)
Madeline Gaiser (R) (Did not respond)
Senate District J (Anchorage)
Senate District L (Anchorage)
Senate District M (Anchorage)
Senate District N (Anchorage)
Roger Holland (R) (Did not respond)
Senate District P (Homer-Kodiak-Cordova)
Greg Madden (AIP) (Did not respond)
House District 7 (Wasilla)
Christopher Kurka (R) (Did not respond)
House District 8 (Big Lake)
Alma Hartley (D) (Did not respond)
Kevin McCabe (R) (Did not respond)
House District 9 (Sutton)
George Rauscher* (R) (Did not respond)
House District 10 (Wasilla)
David Eastman* (R) (Did not respond)
House District 11 (Wasilla)
Andrea Hackbarth (D) (Did not respond)
DeLena Johnson* (R) (Did not respond)
House District 12 (Wasilla)
Cathy Tilton* (R) (Did not respond)
House District 13 (Eagle River)
House District 14 (Eagle River)
Kelly Merrick* (R) (Did not respond)
Michael “Mike” Risinger (D) (Did not respond)
House District 15 (Anchorage)
David Nelson (R) (Did not respond)
House District 16 (Anchorage)
House District 17 (Anchorage)
House District 18 (Anchorage)
House District 19 (Anchorage)
House District 20 (Anchorage)
House District 21 (Anchorage)
Lynette Largent (R) (Did not respond)
House District 22 (Anchorage)
House District 23 (Anchorage)
Timothy Huit (AIP) (Did not respond)
House District 24 (Anchorage)
House District 25 (Anchorage)
House District 26 (Anchorage)
Laddie Shaw* (R) (Did not respond)
House District 27 (Anchorage)
House District 28 (Anchorage)
House District 29 (Nikiski)
House District 30 (Kenai)
Ronald “Ron” Gillham (R) (Did not respond)
House District 31 (Homer)