Absentee ballot requests surge in Alaska for 2020 elections

Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 4:09 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The 2020 general election is November 3rd, and the state of Alaska has received more than 100,000 absentee ballot requests as of October 1st.

According to Tiffany Montemayor, Public Relations Manager with the Alaska Division of Elections (DoE), this number represents more than the last three elections combined, not counting this year’s primary. “I think that it’s really good, though. We’re encouraging voters to vote by mail. It’s one of the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] number one recommendations for COVID-safe voting. So it’s really great that people are learning about that and choosing to vote this way,” she said.

Montemayor explained that when comparing in-person voting and absentee voting, the ballots themselves are the same.

However, in-person ballots are turned in at the voting place where they are filled out, while absentee ballots must be mailed in or turned in to a ballot drop box or DoE office.

Montemayor said any registered voter in Alaska may request an absentee ballot, with no excuse needed. “We’re really lucky here to kind of have these sort of extra perks that a lot of other places don’t have,” she said.

Another option Alaskans have is to request an Electronic Transmission Ballot, which is either emailed or faxed to the voter, and returned via mail or fax. According to Montemayor, any Alaskan can qualify for this method and the deadline to apply is November 2nd at 5pm.

Among reasons that absentee ballots might be rejected, Montemayor cited ballots not having signatures for the voter or a witness, both of which are required on the return envelope. Another reason she mentioned is failure to include an identifier, such as driver’s license number, date of birth, or voter number. All mail-in ballots require at least one be present.

Some absentee ballots, she specified, are turned in after the deadline. This means that the ballot was not postmarked by the election date. These ballots also may be rejected.

Montemayor recommended that if a voter requests and receives an absentee ballot, then decides to vote in person, they destroy the absentee ballot. If, for some reason, a person both turns in an absentee ballot and votes in person, the in-person vote is counted.

“On election night, the only votes that we count are those that were voted in-person on election day, and those that were voted early, up to October 29th. Those votes get counted on election night. We don’t even open an absentee ballot until about seven days later. And that’s because we count all of the ballots from election night, and then we run a voter history so that we can check for dublicate votes,” she explained.

Montemayor says there is no risk of fraud in any state, including Alaska. “There’s no evidence that says voter fraud is rampant and that it’s impacting our elections. There was a study done just for data’s sake, and in that study it counted every single voter fraud conviction for the last twenty years, everywhere. And there were three in Alaska in the last twenty years. So I don’t think it’s an incredibly big problem here at all.”

The deadline for registering to vote in the general election is Sunday, October 4th, and the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is October 24th. Ballots must be postmarked by the day of the election, though they do not need to be received at the DoE office by that day.

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