GOTNV Update: Mail-in Ballot a Success for Anchorage and Maybe the State?
Last month, the Municipality of Anchorage held its first election by mail-in-ballot and it was a huge success. Essentially, Anchorage did not provide voting precincts or polling locations, and mailing in the ballot was the only method for Anchorage residents to cast their vote. By Election Day on April 3, there were nearly 80,000 votes already received by the Alaska Division of Elections. This number sets a record for the most votes ever cast in the Anchorage municipal election.
“My wife and I both loved the mail-in ballot. Normally, we don’t have the time to have a conversation about the ballot options until after the fact. The mail-in ballot gave us the opportunity to talk about the propositions and make choices we both agreed on,” stated Anchorage resident, Eric Buring. “It was also nice to slip our ballots in the mail and not have to wait in line to vote.”
The success of this election is one the state is hoping to mimic throughout Alaska. Doyon, Limited shareholders living in Alaska should not be surprised if and when Alaska becomes a vote-by-mail state. However, the state will have to consider possible challenges of voting by mail in Alaska, such as the many rural communities that do not receive regular mail delivery, are not on a daily flight schedule, or do not have a full-time postal employee, post office or otherwise.
The statewide election policy work group, an ad hoc group of Alaskans led by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, has an initiative to review and discuss alternative ballot delivery systems that will work for voters in both urban and rural Alaska. Sharon Hildebrand, Doyon’s village outreach liaison, has been attending meetings for the election policy work group.
The Alaska Division of Elections director, Josie Bahnke, is well aware of the challenges rural Alaska faces in a time of changing voting preferences. The group is working together to address the state’s needs, which include maximizing value during a statewide budget crunch and reaching all Alaskans who want to vote. Any recommendations made by the group will most likely not be implemented statewide until 2020 or 2022.
“Any system designed for our state will have to work for all of Alaska,” stated Claire Richardson, chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Mallott.