‘It’s voting day’: In Alaska’s largest city, residents head to polls

A white woman with a black facemask and blond hair holds an "I voted sticker:
Voter Wendy Dickman at Hanshew Middle School the morning of Election Day 2020. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Despite high rates of early voting in Anchorage, plenty of people turned out for in-person voting in Alaska’s largest city. 

A couple minor issues appeared on Tuesday morning, including at Service High School.

A technical glitch in the scanning system made it so many morning voters had to put their ballots in the pile to get counted by hand. John Bevis says it didn’t really affect his experience.

Listen to Alaska Public Media’s live coverage of the election, beginning at 9 p.m.

“Looks like we need to do some repair or get some new voting machines so that they can do it,” he said. 

Tiffany Montemayor, a spokesperson for the Division of Elections, said that the scanner got replaced and that it didn’t really affect voting. She said the division is using new voting machines and a new information system, but that minor technical glitches pop up every year. 

two election workers talk to each other
Precinct chair Myron Severson helps voters at Service High School on Election Day 2020. An election machine was malfunctioning forcing some voters to put their ballots to the side to be hand counted, but elections officials say the machine was replaced later in the day and the issue didn’t affect the voting. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Poll observers from the Republican and Democratic parties were ready to be dispatched at a moment’s notice. But both parties reported that things went pretty smoothly as of Tuesday afternoon. Democracy is working in Alaska, they said. 

RELATED: Alaskans line up at polls as large number absentee ballots wait to be counted

While there were plenty of sign-wavers around town, there were also some advocates just there to remind people to vote. In Mountain View, a group organized by Alaska Civic Engagement State were waving signs and dancing to hip hop music to remind people to vote. They also had information about who to call if they had questions or problems at election sites. 

Kengo Nagaoka, civic engagement coordinator for the Alaska Center passed out coffee and hot cocoa to volunteers. He said the East Anchorage neighborhood has historically been overlooked, but this year, advocates are hoping voter registration drives will boost turnout. 

people stand on a street corner with "VOTE" signs
Volunteers and organizers with the Alaska Civic Engagement State (AKCES) Table gather on Election Day 2020 in Mountain View to remind residents to vote. AKCES is a nonpartisan group with 75 volunteers that have been showing up at the polls to support voter education and safety. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

“We know we have a lot of potentially new voters, people who are just getting registered to vote here in Mountain View. And so we see it’s a really important place for us to get the message out,” he said. 

At the Boys and Girls Club down the street, there was a steady stream of voters. Lee One Thal says he was hoping for a more celebratory mood in the polling place, but that’s been dampened by the pandemic.

“I would have liked to see that kind of friendliness to it. But I guess voting is not a whole thing anymore,” he said. 

RELATED: PHOTOS: Election Day across Alaska

Most voters had made up their minds by the time they arrived at the polls. But there were also some of the elusive undecided voters. Voter Mariah Clemens says she was mostly undecided when she walked into the polling booth on Tuesday afternoon.

“I don’t want to sound bad, but it’s kind of ‘eeny, meeny, miny, moe,’” she said, referring to her choice for president. 

At Hanshew Middle School, voter Chelsea Alletson cast her ballot just before noon. She lived the last ten years in England, where she has dual citizenship, but never bothered to vote absentee. Now that she’s moved back to her hometown, she wanted to vote in person. She tried to vote early as over 100,000 Alaskans already have, but the line was too long, so she waited till election day.

a person talks with a reporter
Voter Chelsea Alletson at Hanshew Middle School the morning of Election Day 2020. Alletson, a first-time voter says she tried to vote early, but was deterred by long lines. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

“It was insane,” she said, “Yesterday when I went I just wasn’t prepared to maybe stand in line for hours.”

For others though, like Rodman Putt, voting early wasn’t something he even considered.

“It’s like having Christmas on a different day than the 25th. It’s November 3, here I am – it’s voting day,” he said. 

Previous articleAlaskans line up at polls, as large number absentee ballots wait to be counted
Next articleAlaska News Nightly: Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Lex Treinen covers culture, homelessness, politics and corrections for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@alaskapublic.org.

No posts to display