Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial
While the state primary election isn’t until Tuesday, Aug. 19, a fact you’ve had ample reminder about if you’re a regular reader of this page, what you may not know is that it’s possible to cast a ballot before then if you’ve already made up your mind. In fact, many of the people reading this already have. The state offers early absentee voting both in person and by mail, giving residents a chance to vote who are otherwise committed, out of town or who just want to get their ballot squared away before election day arrives.
Many people are familiar with early and absentee voting, though fewer know that in Alaska, you don’t have to provide justification for why you prefer to vote before election day. In a state where many residents are hunting, fishing or otherwise away from their precinct on election day — particularly during primaries in August — election officials give residents the benefit of the doubt assuming that voters have plenty of legitimate reasons for wanting to cast a ballot early. Those wishing to vote early or absentee in-person can do so at the Division of Elections’ regional office at 675 Seventh Ave. downtown.
The difference between absentee in-person voting and early voting is confusing to most people, and likely discourages some from exercising the opportunity to vote in advance of the election. According to the Division of elections, when voting early, “the voter’s eligibility to vote is verified at the time of voting through the Division of Elections statewide voter registration system. A voter is eligible to vote early if the voter is voting at the Regional Elections Office and if the voter’s registration record is active and current.” This differs from absentee in-person voting, in which a voter’s eligibility to vote is determined after their ballot is cast. When voting absentee, voters’ ballots are placed into a special envelope and set aside so that elections officials can determine the voting status of the person casting the ballot.
If you plan to vote on election day, as most will, it’s important to note that your district and precinct number may be different this year because of the formation of new legislative districts following the rejection of the state’s initial 2010 redistricting plan. Make sure you know where your polling place is — if you don’t, you can refer to the News-Miner’s election section that ran in Wednesday’s paper, which includes maps of all Interior districts.
If you’re still confused, need help, or can’t find your polling place, there are also a few failsafe options on election day, in the form of two local polling places that have ballots for all 40 of the state’s districts. The aforementioned regional elections office in the state office building on Seventh Avenue is one — the other is Fairbanks International Airport, a particularly convenient location for those traveling on election day. No matter your district, personnel at those two locations can serve you and offer you the correct ballot.
There are plenty of options for casting your ballot in the election, but the most important point to reinforce is that however you choose to vote, make time to do it. Participation in primary elections is typically shamefully low, and as your friends and neighbors whose letters and Community Perspectives have filled this page for months can attest, this is an important one. Get out and vote on Tuesday, if not before.