Two rural Alaska communities failed to open polling places on election day

a sign at a polling place
An early voting site is seen on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022 at the State Office Building in Juneau, Alaska. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

Two voting stations in rural Alaska failed to open as scheduled on Alaska’s Aug. 16 election day, leaving local residents with no way to vote in person.

Two others lacked enough poll workers to operate traditionally, but the division was informed with enough time to offer absentee in-person voting, said Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai.

“Holy Cross and Venetie had absentee in-person only voting on Election Day,” she said, “so those have been included in the district totals for House District 36.”

“And two precincts unfortunately did not open on election day: Tununak and Atmautluak,” Fenumiai said.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the polling places in those villages failed to open as scheduled. 

“Workers that were secured ended up not being able to work, and the division was not informed by them or any members of the community on election day,” said Tiffany Montemayor, the division’s public relations manager.

Tununak, on Nelson Island in southwest Alaska, has a population of 338, according to the 2020 Census. Atmautluak is west of Bethel in Southwest Alaska and has a population of 386, according to the Census. 

Certified results published Friday showed 398 of 402 precincts reporting results, but that figure is misleading. The votes from Holy Cross and Venetie were included among absentee votes in House District 36, which covers a vast portion of Interior Alaska.

The missing votes from Tununak and Atmautluak would not have changed the result of the election. In the 2020 primary election, 30 Atmautluak voters cast ballots and 48 Tununak voters participated.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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