Candidates criss-cross Alaska in final days before US House primary

Several of the 48 U.S. House candidates are criss-crossing Alaska in the final week of campaigning before this week’s primary voting deadline. More than 110,000 ballots have already been cast and voters have until Saturday to cast their ballots in a race unprecedented in almost every way.

The special election to replace U.S. Representative Don Young, who died in March after holding the seat for 49 years, is the first since Alaskans voted to adopt new electoral laws which abolished partisan primaries and introduced preferential voting for general elections. It is also the first postal election in the history of the state. And with 48 candidates on the primary ballot, voters have more options than ever.

These candidates are taking different approaches to campaigning, with less than a week until the Saturday deadline for voting in the primaries. The top four voters in the open, nonpartisan primary qualify for a general election to be decided by preferential ballot. Faced with new voting rules, a shortened campaign season and a slate long enough to cripple some voters, some candidates have avoided events altogether, while others are capitalizing on fundraising and personal wealth. to meet voters across the state before the voting deadline.

Democrat Mary Peltola and Independent Al Gross are spending the first half of the week in Sitka at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council before heading to Juneau for Celebration, an Alaska Native event. Republican Tara Sweeney is spending the week bouncing between Seward, Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Democrat Adam Wool hosted a party in his hometown of Fairbanks on Sunday; and Democrat Chris Constant hosted a campaign party in Anchorage on Monday.

Republican Sarah Palin’s campaign is focusing on voter turnout efforts on the sidelines of a rally in Anchorage last week.

Still others are keeping a low profile: Republican Josh Revak’s social media was devoid of any posts about upcoming or recent events, and his campaign manager did not reveal details about Revak’s plans for the week, as the candidate failed to gain traction despite an endorsement. of Young’s widow.

The independent progressive candidate, Santa Claus, has had an uneventful campaign from the start. Vowing not to accept campaign contributions, he said he had not scheduled any in-person events during the final week of the shortened campaign season brought on by Young’s unexpected death in March.

The special election will determine who serves the final four months of a term previously held by Young. The field for November’s regular elections – which will determine who takes the seat for the next two-year term – is already finalized at 31 candidates. Many of the most prominent candidates are running in both special and regular elections, and some have indicated they may reconsider running in the November race if they do not get enough votes to qualify for the elections. special general elections.

In a race marked by firsts, the Alaska Division of Elections launched voter education campaigns backed by the efforts of the candidates themselves.

Every registered voter in the state received a ballot in the mail, and more than half a million were mailed to voters. The most recent vote count puts voter turnout above 20%, but it’s hard to compare that number to previous elections because so much about this election is different from previous races.

“Everything that could be a first is happening in this election,” said Tiffany Montemayor, spokeswoman for the Elections Division.

Still, the tally of just over 110,000 ballots returned Monday afternoon is lower than the turnout in the 2014 primary, as just under 200,000 Alaskans have voted. With days to go, that number could still be eclipsed.

[Voter guide: Alaska’s 48 U.S. House candidates in the 2022 special primary election]

Officials will begin counting ballots at 8 p.m. Saturday, with the first preliminary results expected about an hour later, according to Montemayor. But it’s unclear if these early results will provide a definitive idea of ​​the top four contenders.

“We’ve never done this before – an all mail thing. So we’re not 100% sure how it’s going to play out,” Montemayor said.

Additional recounts are scheduled for June 15 and 17. June 21 is the last day the division will accept ballots, and the target date for certifying results is June 25, so it could be up to two weeks before Alaskans find out who advanced to them. general elections to be held in August.

For electors who have not yet voted, several options are available. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by June 11. Voters who intend to mail in their ballots are encouraged to check with their individual post office for the deadline based on local opening hours.

“From the very beginning, we told voters to send in their ballot as soon as possible,” Montemayor said. “That allows time for it to reach us.”

Additionally, dozens of in-person polling places are open across the state. Most will be open until June 10, but voters can check the list on the Elections Division website for exact times and locations. There are also early voting locations in Anchorage, Palmer, Soldotna, Wasilla, Fairbanks, Homer, Juneau and Nome. Many – but not all – of these places will be open on Saturday June 11, the last day of voting.

So far, few Alaskans have taken advantage of in-person voting options, with fewer than 2,000 voters using in-person or early voting options Monday.

Some campaigns are still concerned about voters’ lack of information on how to vote in elections. In Anchorage, Deputy City Clerk for Elections Jamie Heinz said about 200 ballots for the US House race were cast at the five municipal ballot boxes scattered around the city.

Heinz said voters are often confused about the difference between municipal and state elections, especially when the two are in quick succession. But the ballots aren’t wasted — Heinz said the Alaska Division of Elections picked up the ballots and they will be counted.

Journalist Nathaniel Herz contributed to this report.


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