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Alaska: What You Need to Know to Make Sure Your Vote Counts This November

What you need to know, including key deadlines, registration details, and how to vote by mail.

Grace Han/Thrillist

November 3 might feel like a while from now, but before you know it, Election Day will be here. And if you're voting in Alaska, key deadlines for registering to vote and casting your ballot will be here even sooner than that. Now's the time to make a plan for how you'll vote and to consider the steps you can take to vote safely in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Don't let these chaotic times discourage you. Your vote should count and your voice should be heard. How you make that happen is all up to you. Here's everything you need to know -- from when you need to be registered to vote to the steps you can take to safely vote in person on Election Day.

What’s the deadline to register to vote in Alaska?

The deadline to register to vote in Alaska is coming up fast: October 4.

Not sure if you're already registered? The state allows you to check your voter status online.

How to register to vote in Alaska

The easiest, quickest, and likely the safest way to register to vote is to do so online. If for some reason that's not a good fit for you, you've got options. Here's a list of other ways to register, according to the Alaska Division of Elections:

Can I vote early? When does early voting start in Alaska?

Yep. Early voting for the 2020 General Election will begin on October 19 and run through November 2, though the dates and hours of operations may vary from place to place. To find out about early voting locations, dates, and hours near you, go to the state's Early and In-Person Voting Locations page. You can also vote absentee in person ahead of Election Day if that works better for you.

Vote early if you can. There might be a line at your early voting site, but there probably won't be big crowds like there can be on Election Day. For that reason, this is a somewhat safer way to cast your ballot in person (more on that later) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Can I vote by mail?

Also yep. If you can't make it to your polling place on Election Day or you'd rather not go because you're concerned about the potential spread of COVID-19, Alaska will allow you to vote via an absentee ballot. This is a good option if you're worried about getting sick and if the early voting route doesn't work for you.

How to request an absentee ballot in Alaska

Just like with registering to vote, the easiest, fastest, and safest way to request an absentee ballot is to do it online. Head over to the state's Online Absentee Ballot Application and follow the instructions from there. You'll need your valid Alaska driver's license or state ID for this process.

If you don't like doing things the easy way, you can also apply for an absentee ballot by filling out the downloadable PDF form, printing it, signing it, then sending it to the state's Absentee Office via mail, fax, or email attachment. 

The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is October 24, which is frankly cutting it a bit too close to Election Day. You should get your application in well ahead of the cutoff date to ensure there's time for the state to process it and mail your ballot to you. 

You can check the status of your application on the state's My Voter Information page.

How to vote absentee by mail in Alaska

Once you get it in the mail, carefully follow the instructions, mark the ballot with your choices, and return your completed ballot in the provided envelopes as instructed. Here are the exact absentee by mail instructions that Alaska posted online:

1. In your voting packet you will receive a ballot, a return mailing envelope that contains the voter certificate and identification requirements, instructions, and a gray secrecy sleeve.

2. Vote your ballot by filling in the ovals next to your choices.

3. Place your voted ballot inside the gray secrecy sleeve. Place the gray sleeve containing your voted ballot inside the return mailing envelope.

4. In the presence of your witness, sign your ballot envelope and provide at least ONE identifier.

5. A witness must be someone 18 years of age or older or an authorized official (Notary Public, municipal clerk, or any other official authorized and willing to administer the oath).

6. Secure your ballot by folding over the flap and sealing the flap at the top and the bottom.

7. Apply the correct amount of postage to the return envelope. Postal amount will be provided with the instructions.

8. Mail your ballot. It must be postmarked on or before Election Day.

That all sounds easy enough, right? Perhaps the only hurdle or inconvenience you'll face with an absentee ballot is the witness requirement. You should also consider mailing your completed absentee ballot well ahead of the Election Day postmark deadline. Your ballot must be received by November 13. Overseas absentee ballots must be received by November 18, according to the Division of Elections.

If you're worried about missing the mail-in deadline (or if it's just easier for you), you can also drop off your voted absentee ballot at any Division of Elections office or any voting location.

Is there a way to track my absentee ballot? How can I make sure it’s counted?

Alaska makes it easy to track the status of your absentee ballot online via the My Voter Information site.

For additional peace of mind, avoid tearing or otherwise damaging your voter materials -- you don't want you ballot to be thrown out on some sort of technicality.

How can I stay safe while voting in person?

Polling places are open from 7am to 8pm on Election Day. Find your polling place using the state's locator.

While voting absentee by mail and voting early in person are likely the safest ways to vote in this election, there are still ways you can reduce your risk of getting COVID-19 if you plan to vote in person at your local polling place. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has issued several safety tips to help voters protect themselves and others. 

Here's what the CDC recommends, according to its official election guidance page:

  • Wear a mask. 
  • Keep a distance of at least six feet from others at all times.
  • Wash your hands both before and after leaving your polling location.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol frequently throughout your time inside the polling place, especially after you touch things like door hands, voting machines, and other surfaces that lots of other people touch.
  • If you cough or sneeze, cover them with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Dispose of the tissues in a lined garbage can, then use that 60% alcohol hand sanitizer again. 
  • Don't try to disinfect the voting machine or equipment yourself because you may end up damaging them with cleaners and disinfectant products. This is where hand sanitizer comes in again. Use it right after you touch the voting equipment, and if you use it before you touch the equipment, make sure your hands have dried first. 
  • Try to vote when your polling place isn't as busy. This might involve driving by and checking to see how long the line is.
  • Verify that you're registered to vote before you leave home and make sure you bring any documents you'll need to avoid complications that could result in spending more time inside the polling place.
  • Bring your own black ink pen for marking your ballot, or your own stylus (just check with a polling place worker before you use it). 
  • If possible, fill out a sample ballot at home that you can use to speed up casting your ballot at the polling location.

Alaska has also outlined precautions it's taking for the election.

Additional Alaska voting resources

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Tony Merevick is Senior News Editor at Thrillist. Send news tips to news@thrillist.com and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.