FAQ: How to vote by mail this year

Answers to frequently asked questions about the special primary election for U.S. House

By: - May 11, 2022 5:00 am
A sample ballot for the 2022 Alaska special U.S. House race is seen on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (James Brooks / Alaska Beacon)

A sample ballot for the 2022 Alaska special U.S. House race is seen on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (James Brooks / Alaska Beacon)

Forty-eight candidates are competing to temporarily represent Alaska in the U.S. House of Representatives after the sudden death of Congressman Don Young.

In a June 11 special primary and an Aug. 16 special general election, voters will pick one person to represent the state in the House from September through January. Beginning in January, the winner of November’s regular general election will sit in the seat.

Voting is now under way for the special primary, with more than 560,000 ballots automatically sent to all registered Alaska voters. It’s Alaska’s first statewide by-mail election, and officials at the Alaska Division of Elections have been answering the questions of curious voters.

When do I get my ballot?

The state’s hired contractor mailed a first round of ballots on April 27, and those should be arriving in mailboxes now, if they haven’t already. The division is planning additional mailings to get ballots to new registrants and others who didn’t get their ballot in the first mailing.

You can check your voter registration online at https://myvoterinformation.alaska.gov/, and that site will also show whether you’ve been sent a ballot, and it will list the address that ballot was sent to.

If you want text and email notices to track your ballot, register at https://alaska.ballottrax.net/voter/

What do I do if I don’t get a ballot?

Check your voter registration online to make sure your address is correct, and if it looks good, contact a Division of Elections office.

What should I do if I accidentally threw my ballot away?

You can ask any Division of Elections office for a replacement ballot. Even if your dog ate it.

Why are we picking only one? Aren’t we supposed to be ranking candidates?

That comes in August. This special primary election picks the four candidates who will advance to the special general election. That second election, which will take place Aug. 6, is the one that will use ranked-choice voting.

Alaskans approved this new two-part voting system when they voted in favor of Ballot Measure 2 in 2020.

What do I need when I vote?

You’ll need a blue pen, a black pen, or a black/blue Sharpie to fill in the oval next to your preferred candidate. (Don’t use a pencil or something other than blue or black.) 

You’ll need a friend, neighbor or other person 18 or older to watch you sign your ballot envelope and to co-sign it as a witness to ensure that you are who you say you are.

You’ll also need to provide an identifying number like your birthdate, driver’s license number or the last four digits of your Social Security number.

All of that goes on the back of your ballot envelope, underneath the flap. There’s a tear-away section of the flap; leave it attached, but it’s not a problem if you tear it off.

When do I need to turn it in?

In order to have your vote counted, it needs to be postmarked by June 11, the special election day. If it’s postmarked by that date, it can arrive at the Division of Elections as late as June 21 and still be counted.

Keep in mind that most mail sent in Alaska is postmarked in Anchorage, and mail might not get postmarked until a few days after you put it into a mailbox. 

If you’re up against the deadline, drop your ballot off at an in-person voting location or walk into a post office and have a postal worker hand-cancel it.

Can I vote in person instead?

Starting May 27, the Division of Elections will open five early voting locations and dozens of absentee voting locations across the state. At an early voting location, you don’t need to fill out an envelope. If you go to one of the absentee voting locations, you’ll need to fill out an envelope, similar to the by-mail voting process.

How is this secure?

The Division of Elections keeps a record of voters’ signatures, and if there’s any doubt that a vote was cast correctly, it can compare the signature on a ballot to the one on file. (This isn’t done routinely.) The cross-signing requirement adds security, and so does the personal identifying number. The division will be looking for people who try to vote multiple times.

What if a ballot comes to my home for someone who doesn’t live here?

Write: “Not at this address – RETURN TO SENDER” and put it back in the mailbox. If a ballot is addressed to someone who is dead, write: “Deceased – RETURN TO SENDER” and put it back in the mailbox. The Postal Service will return those ballots to the Division of Elections, which will cancel them and update the voter’s information.

When do we know who won?

The Division of Elections will publish initial results on the evening of June 11, then update those results on the 15th, 17th and 21st. 

Workers will double-check the count and certify the results by the 25th.

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James Brooks
James Brooks

James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. A graduate of Virginia Tech, he is married to Caitlyn Ellis, owns a house in Juneau and has a small sled dog named Barley. He can be contacted at [email protected].