What to expect when you're electing

Nov 2, 2020

Carol Freas sanitized tables between voters during municipal elections in Kenai last month.
Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL

With more people voting absentee than ever before, this cycle has been more of an election season than a singular Election Day.

And don’t hold your breath for a conclusive election night, either. Results won’t be finalized at least until Nov. 10, when the state begins counting all absentee and special needs ballots, said Tiffany Montemayor of the Division of Elections.

Jeffrey Meyers, an assistant professor of history and political science for Kenai Peninsula College, said the results we see tomorrow will likely skew more conservative than the final results. That’s in part because President Donald Trump has politicized absentee voting by falsely alleging it leads to voter fraud.

“It’s kind of an interesting thing because the party that has relied so heavily on absentee ballots from the military and from senior citizens, and the party that has made absentee balloting kind of front and center and a part of why they get so many people elected, is the Republican Party," he said. "So it’s interesting that this election, most numbers people argue that it’s going to be the opposite for the first time — it’s going to be more conservatives voting on election day, and more people on the left who are mailing in their ballots because of coronavirus or because of other reasons.”

State and federal election officials have repeatedly said that absentee voting does not lead to voter fraud.

Even though the circumstances of the election are unprecedented in many ways, Meyers said it is rarely the case that every single cast vote is tabulated by election night.

“We just need to remain calm. There hasn’t been a presidential election called on Election Day for decades," he said. "So it is not new that we might not know who the president is tomorrow. It is OK. But it is also not OK to declare yourself a winner tomorrow, no matter who the presidential candidate is.”

As of Monday afternoon, Montemayor said House District 29 — representing Sterling, Hope, Nikiski and the eastern peninsula — has counted 919 in-person absentee votes and 2,174 mail-in votes. District 30 — which includes Soldotna, Kenai and Kalifornsky — has collected 1,177 in-person absentee votes and 1,942 mail-in votes.

The state is expecting to see nearly 1,000 more by-mail votes from each district. It will count all ballots postmarked by or before Election Day.

This election season has also been characterized by an upick of voter intimidation nationwide. Montemayor said her office has not yet received reports of voter intimidation in Alaska, but that they’re aware of the potential for an issue.

“We have communicated with local law enforcement and statewide law enforcement to let them know that this may happen, especially on Election Day, and so they know to kind of be on alert so that if we call them to tell them about an instance of this, they can respond immediately and faster," she said. "And so what we do want voters to do if they are at a polling place, they feel like this is happening, to call our office and to let us know, immediately, that way we can get the appropriate people out there to check on this. And also they can tell the poll workers there, just so they can be aware.”

For a list of polling places, visit elections.alaska.gov.