Polls open in Alaska for early in-person voting

two women with masks
Nichole Caldwell, left, and Marjorie Haun waited more than an hour to vote on the first day of in-person voting, Oct. 19, 2020. They’re business colleagues, with Mary Kay Inc.(Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

At the Midtown Mall on Monday, eager voters waited in a line that ran up one side of the mall and down the other.

At noon on the first day of in-person voting, the wait was more than an hour, and Janiece Buck didn’t mind.

“This is a wonderful day,” she said. “Look at the turnout. It’s amazing.”

Read more of Alaska Public Media’s coverage of the 2020 elections including candidate debates, candidate profiles and analysis

Buck has a sore foot. She brought a folding lawn chair that she scooted ahead a few times a minute. Even after waiting so long, as she neared the voting booths she was still agog at the sight of so many citizens coming together — while staying six feet apart — to cast ballots in person. 

“And it’s warm and in dry here,” she said. “I mean, there’s so many people standing out in the weather, and look at us. We are blessed.”

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Most voters said they wanted to vote early just to make sure they got it done. Some said they hoped it meant their ballots would be counted on Nov. 3. The Division of Elections says early in-person ballots cast on or before Oct. 29 will be counted on election night, with other ballots tallied a week later.

A sign in the foreground says "vote here polling place". on both sides is a long line of people.

Early in-person voting began Oct. 19, 2020. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Campaigning isn’t allowed within 200 feet of a polling place, but at the far end of the line, some voters said they were driven to vote against President Trump. Doris Hugo-Shavings said she was voting for Biden.

“I hope it’s possible that he can win Alaska. I believe it is,” Hugo-Shavings said. “I believe a lot of people are looking for something new for the next four years.”

Not far from her stood a couple in Trump-Pence shirts. A poll worker asked them to cover them up when they got closer to the voting area.

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Mary Ketasse was in line, standing behind the wheelchair of her aunt, Judy Hanson, who is 79. They normally live in Juneau, but Hanson is undergoing medical care in Anchorage. Even her compromised immune system didn’t stop them. Hanson and Ketasse wore full-face shields over their masks.

“Rain, shine, it doesn’t matter — we always go and vote, whether it’s local election, state or nation. She always votes.”

Early in-person voting is now open across the state. The Division of Elections website has the locations and hours.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

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