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How to vote in the primary and special elections this August

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Izzy Ross
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KDLG
Bristy Larson, left, works at the Dillingham polls on election day. October 5, 2021.

It’s voting season in Alaska. With two types of voting and state and federal elections all on one ballot, a small piece of paper can feel daunting. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect.

More information on the election, including sample ballots, can be found on the Alaska Division of Elections website at elections.alaska.gov.

The Aug. 16 Special General Election will include two types of voting: A nonpartisan pick-one primary for multiple positions and a ranked-choice vote for the U.S. House of Representatives to serve the remainder of the late Congressman Don Young’s term.

Primary

In the pick-one primary election, voters will choose who makes it to the Nov. 8 midterm elections. The ballot includes candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, Alaska Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Senate District S and State House District 37, both of which include Bristol Bay. There are no local Dillingham offices on this ballot.

Voters will choose just one person for each office in the August primary. The November ballot will implement a ranked-choice voting system.

Special election

The August ballot will also include a special election for the U.S. House to serve the remainder of the late Congressman Don Young’s term, which ends in January. The three candidates for this race are Democrat Mary Pelotola and Republicans Nick Begich and Sarah Palin.

Unlike the pick-one primary, the choices for this seat will be determined by ranked choice. This means voters will rank candidates in order of preference, and votes are counted in rounds.

If a candidate receives more than half the votes in the first round, the counting stops and that candidate wins. In the second round, the candidate who has the fewest votes is eliminated. For voters who chose the eliminated candidate as their first choice, their second choice is applied to the overall count to see which of the remaining two candidates wins.

Voters can rank up to all three candidates in their order of preference, but if they only fill in a first choice and nothing else, their vote will still be counted for the first round. Voters cannot rank the same candidate twice on their ballots.

Where to vote

In Dillingham, in-person absentee voting is open on weekdays between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. from Aug. 1 through Aug. 15 at City Hall. On Aug. 16, the polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

The Dillingham Primary Election Chairperson, Pat Walsh, said the absentee voting period can be a good option for people who will be out of town or those who find Election Day crowds challenging.

"So you're going to be traveling or there's some circumstance that you're not going to be able to get to the polls on Election Day," she said. "This makes it a little easier, even if someone has trouble walking or doesn't want to be around crowds. It just gives you a little more time in an uncrowded situation to vote. Just follow the directions, fill in the ovals completely. It is pretty straightforward."

For any additional questions on the primary election in Dillingham, Pat Walsh can be reached at (907)-455-6430. 

More information on the election, including sample ballots, can be found on the Alaska Division of Elections website at elections.alaska.gov.

Get in touch with the author at katherine@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

Katherine is covering local stories in Dillingham and the Bristol Bay area for the summer of 2022, and she's excited to be in Alaska for the first time. She's passionate about all forms of storytelling, and she recently graduated from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, a 15-week intensive in radio and podcast production. When not working on stories or hosting the morning news, Katherine enjoys cooking, reading, and going on aimless walks. She'll pet any dog that wants attention.