It’s been an unprecedented election season. With coronavirus surging across Alaska, candidates have campaigned differently, voters are voting differently, and the winners of this year’s races won’t be determined on the usual timeline.
On the ballot: The presidential election, two far-reaching Alaska ballot measures, two of the state’s three delegates to Congress, 51 of the 60 seats in the Alaska Legislature, and a slate of judicial seats.
Here are some things to know as Election Day arrives:
If you’re voting, bring an ID and be prepared to wait
Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in most of Alaska.
All listed polling places in Southcentral and Southeast Alaska are scheduled to be open, but some have changed locations because of COVID. (You can look up your polling place online.) The Division of Elections says that in most places across Alaska, it has overcome concerns about a shortage of poll workers.
Officials did not plan to open the polling place in Clark’s Point (in the Bristol Bay region) on Tuesday because of local coronavirus restrictions, state elections officials said.
Hand sanitizer, gloves and other protective equipment will be available at the polls.
If you’re voting in person, be prepared to show ID.
According to the Division of Elections, a “Voter ID card, driver’s license, state ID, military ID, passport, hunting or fishing license or other current or valid photo ID” will work. If you don’t have those, “you may present a current utility bill or paycheck, government check or bank statement or other government issued document.”
We don’t know how long the lines will be at each polling place. Four years ago, 321,274 Alaskans voted. This year, about half that number have already voted, which could reduce Election Day lines.
If the line at your particular polling place is too long, you can go to a different voting station and cast a questioned ballot. It will require additional paperwork, and your vote will not be counted until at least next week, but it would allow you to sidestep the wait.
If you’re traveling, polling stations will be open at the Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau airports. Voting is available at the University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. A full list of locations is online.
If you’re stuck in quarantine, there is an option
If you’re quarantined or locked down on Election Day, you can ask a friend to pick up a “special needs” ballot for you from a polling place. The friend will need to bring your ID and theirs to the polling station, then fill out some paperwork. Once they’ve brought you your ballot and you’ve filled it out, the same person needs to return it.
If you still have an absentee ballot, go to a post office or look for a dropbox
Alaska law requires absentee ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day and arrive at the Division of Elections within 10 days of the election. (They can arrive within 15 days if they’re mailed from outside the United States.)
Late postmarks were the No. 2 reason for rejecting absentee ballots in the primary election.
In this year’s primary election, some voters who mailed their ballots on Election Day didn’t have them postmarked until the day after. Ballots mailed from within are postmarked in Anchorage unless a voter asks at a post office to have them postmarked by hand, a Postal Service spokesman said.
Ballot dropboxes are available in Fairbanks, Southcentral Alaska and Juneau, and absentee ballots can be deposited at early-voting sites across the state.
First results should come about 9 p.m. but will be misleading
In the August statewide primary, the Division of Elections released its first batch of results about an hour after polls closed, and officials expect a similar timeline Tuesday night.
Election-night results in many races will be misleading because the only ballots counted on Election Day are those voted on Election Day in regular polling places and the 37,995 votes cast at physical early-voting stations through the end of Oct. 29.
At least 120,000 ballots statewide — a third or more of all votes — will not be counted until at least Nov. 10. Those are absentee ballots, questioned ballots, and early ballots voted from Oct. 30 through Election Day.
Ballots become questioned when a voter’s ID, registration or residence can’t immediately be verified, calling their eligibility into question.
The counting starts Nov. 10 and continues through Nov. 18, with results released in batches in between as election officials verify the information on ballot envelopes and open them one by one, feeding the ballot inside through a scanner.
Many of the Alaskans voting absentee are those who were most concerned by COVID, campaigners said. With Republicans generally less concerned by the pandemic, some observers are expecting a “blue shift” in the results.
For every two late-counted Republican votes in Alaska’s August primary election, there were three late-counted votes for non-Republican candidates.
See a problem? Say something
The FBI has asked Alaskans to notify the agency if they spot any voter or ballot fraud, civil rights violations or other election problems that might violate federal law.
If you have information about allegations of federal election crimes, voter fraud, or suppression, please call the FBI Anchorage Field Office at 907-276-4441 or send an email to tips.fbi.gov. For more information on what constitutes a federal election crime, visit fbi.gov/elections.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Clark’s Point was the only Alaskan community that did not conduct in-person voting on Tuesday due to coronavirus precautions. While officials in Arctic Village originally planned to close their polling place Tuesday, ultimately, they proceeded with in-person voting, according to elections officials..