Voters opt for by-mail over in-person absentee voting

Oct 5, 2020

Kenai City Clerk Jamie Heinz said her office received about seven times the number of absentee by-mail ballots.
Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL

Tomorrow is municipal election day. But many Kenai Peninsula Borough residents have already voted.

In a typical year, around 300 to 500 people vote in borough elections by mail, said borough Clerk Johni Blankenship. This year, the borough sent out absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the borough — about 3,000 — in mid-August. Blankenship says they have received about 2,000 back.

As of this morning, another 1,200 residents had voted early in person. That’s consistent with prior years.

These trends are playing out in cities. Brenda Ballou is city clerk for Seward. Her office has ballots for Bear Creek, Cooper Landing, Hope, Moose Pass and Seward precincts.

“In Seward, the absentee in-person voting is pretty much on track with normal years,” Ballou said. “We get just over 100 or so voters who come in and vote absentee in person. But what we have seen an increase in is the absentee by mail. Normally we get about probably 10 to 15 requests for by-mail ballots and we’ve had nearly 100 this time.”

Ballou says she thinks voters have already filled out and returned a majority of those ballots, though she said it’s too early to give exact numbers. Six voting precincts in the borough already voted exclusively by mail — Cooper Landing, Hope, Moose Pass, Fox River, Seldovia and Tyonek.

Kenai City Clerk Jamie Heinz said her office received about seven times the number of absentee by-mail ballots.

“The previous five years, I had never more than 50 requests for absentee by mail,” she said. “And this year received more than 300.”

Heinz said she thinks people are partly voting by mail because of coronavirus concerns and are taking advantage of the absentee ballot applications that were sent out boroughwide.

Heinz expects to see fewer voters vote in person tomorrow. Overall, she thinks voting rates will stay consistent with prior presidential and mayoral election years.

“Typically, in presidential election years, we have higher voter turnout and also, typically, in mayoral election years, we have higher voter turnout,” she said.

Registered voters can still vote in person at the polls tomorrow. Blankenship said the borough is advising voters to follow precautions, including social distancing and mask wearing, and that poll workers will be given protective equipment. However, those precautions are not mandatory. 

Polls will be open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday. By-mail absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before tomorrow or can be dropped off at the Borough Building in Soldotna by tomorrow. You can find your polling place at myvoterinformation.alaska.gov.