ANCHORAGE (AP) — Many Alaska voters are mailing absentee ballots later than a one-week deadline recommended by the U.S. Postal Service, based on an analysis of recent primary voting.
A comparison of the past three statewide primaries by The Anchorage Daily News found that the state's Aug. 18 primary ballots did not arrive unusually late at the Alaska Division of Elections, the newspaper reported Monday.
But late ballot mailing by Alaska voters could affect the result of voting in November, when an even higher number of absentee votes are expected to be cast than the record number submitted in last month's primary.
The Postal Service recommends a deadline of a week because ballots typically travel by first-class mail and the majority arrives between two and five days after being sent, Postal Service documents said.
More ballots arrive at the Alaska Division of Elections after the primary election day than in the three weeks before, indicating many Alaskans are mailing ballots just days before the election, according to absentee voter files from the previous three primary elections.
Mailing ballots after the recommended date increases the number of rejected ballots because state law requires them to be postmarked by Election Day.
Most postmarking takes place in Anchorage, a day or more away by mail from most of the state. Late postmarks are the second highest reason why the elections division rejects absentee ballots.
In one example, North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill lost his recent primary race by 14 votes. There were 30 mailed votes in his district rejected by the elections division for various reasons.
Handwritten dates on ballot envelopes show some of the rejected ballots were mailed on Election Day, but had postmarks from the day after the election. The election division left those votes unopened in accordance with state law.
"I think people are going to have to be alerted that if they're going to have to vote absentee in Fairbanks, they're going to have to get things in a day ahead of the deadline," Coghill said.