This year’s state primary, which took place Aug. 18, saw record-setting absentee voting, according to the Alaska Division of Elections.

“Overall, absentee by-mail voting has nearly exceeded any election conducted by the state,” Division of Elections director Gail Fenumiai said.

The trend was evident in the absentee voting numbers for House District 33, which includes Haines, Klukwan, Skagway, Gustavus and downtown Juneau.

In the 2018 state primary, 317 absentee votes were recorded in House District 33. In 2020, 1,548 absentee ballots were counted. Chilkat Valley-specific numbers are unavailable as the state doesn’t keep precinct-specific data for absentee ballots.

This year, in-person voting was down slightly from 2018 in the three Chilkat Valley precincts—Haines No. 1, Haines No. 2 and Klukwan. In 2018, 441 people voted in-person in the Chilkat Valley compared to 415 in 2020, a difference of roughly 6%.

In-person voting was down more substantially in more densely populated parts of the state. In-person turnout in the three Juneau precincts in House District 33 was down 42% from 2018.

To address pandemic concerns, the Division of Elections made an effort to emphasize early and absentee voting, and implemented Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and state health mandates at all polling places. These measures included building capacity limits, six-foot spacing between people and disinfecting surfaces regularly.

“I thought (the primary) went pretty well COVID-wise,” borough clerk Alekka Fullerton said. COVID-19 mitigation measures in Haines included sanitizing surfaces after each use and mandatory masking.

Fenumiai said based on voter participation in the primary, the state plans to hold the Nov. 3 general election in the same manner.

The Haines Borough Oct. 6 election will likely be held in a similar manner as well—a traditional voting set up with emphasis on early and absentee voting, and COVID-19 mitigation measures in place for voters who choose to cast ballots in person, Fullerton said.

The state began counting absentee ballots Tuesday, Aug. 25. Although the primary results are still being finalized, it appears this year’s winners will be Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan and Independent Al Gross in the U.S. Senate race, Republican Rep. Don Young and Independent Alyse Galvin in the U.S. House of Representatives race and Rep. Sara Hannan, who is running unopposed for House District 33.

For the Haines Borough election, voters have until Sept. 26 to request a by-mail absentee ballot. Email or fax ballots applications can be submitted beginning 15 days before the Oct. 6 election, up until 5 p.m. on Oct. 5.