In late March, the Alaska legislature gave the lieutenant governor the ability to order statewide vote by mail elections if necessary due to the coronavirus pandemic. At a press briefing on May 15, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer announced that the primary elections on August 18th will be held “with our current process.” This process includes in person voting with the option of early voting and mail-in absentee ballots.
Meyer cited “very good” COVID-19 case numbers in Alaska as well as concerns over fraud as reasons for this decision. About 70% of Alaskan voters are eligible to choose between ballots for the primary election. He contends that sending out both versions would result in “600,000 unsecured ballots that are sitting in the post office, sitting on your kitchen table or in the garbage can” if only 30% of eligible citizens vote. These concerns about fraud are generally unsupported; for example, the state of Oregon, which has employed voting by mail in all elections since the 1990s, has identified only about 12 genuine cases of voter fraud.
The state plans to begin stockpiling Personal Protective Equipment for polling places, including masks, and will encourage voters to practice social distancing. Despite this, voting in person is a concern for many, especially people who are at a higher risk from COVID-19 due to health conditions or age. Those who want to avoid crowds can take advantage of early voting at one of 165 early voting locations throughout the state up to 15 days before the election.
Those who prefer to vote by mail can request an absentee ballot on the Alaska Division of Elections website. Alaska is a no excuse absentee voting state, meaning that anyone can request an absentee ballot be delivered to them without giving a reason. To do this, they must fill out the Alaska Absentee Ballot Application, which is available in both English and Spanish, and submit it through mail, fax, or email. The application must be received at least 10 days before the election on August 18th.
The application can be accessed here in English (http://www.elections.alaska.gov/doc/forms/C06C.pdf) and here in Spanish (http://www.elections.alaska.gov/doc/forms/C06C-S.pdf), and requires basic identifying information, either a Social Security number or Driver’s License/State I.D. number, and a mailing address. For the primary election, applicants must also select which ballot they want to receive.
While the coronavirus pandemic presents additional challenges, it is still possible for every eligible voter to vote safely, securely, and if necessary, from home in the upcoming election.