Alaska to hold special elections to fill Don Young’s House seat
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Following the death of long-time congressman Don Young on Friday, March 18, wheels are turning to find his replacement for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Between 60 and 90 days after a position in the House opens up, Alaska is required to hold a special election to fill it.
Candidates have begun putting their names forward for consideration, including Republican Nick Begich and Democrat Christopher Constant.
On Tuesday, March 22, Governor Mike Dunleavy held a press conference in which election officials discussed the special election, including a timeline and the logistical challenges such an election presents.
By current Alaska law, the special election to fill Young’s seat will happen in two parts.
First, an open primary election will occur, tentatively scheduled for June 11.
The filing deadline for candidates hoping to run for Young’s seat is expected to be April 1. According to Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer, candidates “can go to the five different regional election offices we have: Nome, Matsu, Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks.”
This will give the Alaska Division of Elections time to prepare and mail out ballots to Alaskans currently abroad, who are required by federal law to receive their ballots at least 45 days before the election.
This primary will involve mail-in ballots, which will be distributed to every registered Alaskan voter.
This is happening due to logistical considerations, including an ongoing process of redistricting, and a labor shortage. Gail Fenumiai, Director at the Alaska Division of Elections, said, “An in-person election requires about 2000 plus workers, and those are your workers at the polling places, as well as your board members in our five regional offices. It’s a large, large number, and given the compressed timeframe, the division did not feel that we would be able to recruit that number of workers to be able to pull off an in-person election.”
However, in-person early voting will be available for 15 days prior to the primary, at each of the Division of Elections’ regional offices.
Once the primary is decided, the top 4 vote-getters will move on to a special general election.
This election will follow the state’s new ranked-choice model and is expected to appear on the same ballot as the regular primary election on August 16. “The ballot will not only include the normal primary candidates, but it will also include the special general election, which will be the ranked-choice. We can put all those on one ballot,” Meyer said.
Despite the confusion this year, Governor Dunleavy urges Alaskans not to be deterred from the polls. “You increase your chance of having your vote heard if you vote. You’re going to hear a lot of things throughout the next several months regarding elections, campaigns, et cetera. I would strongly urge the people of Alaska that despite all that stuff, there’s no substitute for you going to the polls, for you voting,” he said.
Dunleavy is expected to release a proclamation officially calling for the special election either March 22 or March 23.
Meanwhile, the Division of Elections will be working to educate Alaskans about how the elections will work this year.
In order to receive a ballot by mail, Alaskans are required to have their voter registration updated at least one month before the primary election.
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