Irene Ferguson accepts the reporter’s mail-in ballot at Blatchley Middle School on Thursday. Although it’s the first statewide election by mail, every community has an absentee/early voting location where ballots may be dropped off, or new ballots cast by voters who may have misplaced the ballot that was mailed to them. (KCAW/Woolsey)

Friday (6-10-22) is the last day to vote in-person in Sitka, in the special primary election to replace the late Congressman Don Young.

Friday is also the last day to drop your ballot in the mail, in order to have it postmarked by Saturday’s deadline.

Every registered voter in Alaska received a special primary ballot back in April. It’s the one with 48 candidates, most famously “Santa Claus,” the actual resident of North Pole, Alaska who legally changed his name a few years ago.

Many Alaskans marked their choice on the ballot right away and mailed it in. In fact, for the first statewide election by mail the turnout has been extraordinary – more than 119,000 people have cast ballots.

But there are probably just as many people who might have tossed the ballot out, or set it aside to deal with later.

Well, later is now.

In Sitka, you can drop your ballot in the mail on Friday (6-10-22), or you can take it to the post office and have it hand-canceled. Dropping it in the mail on Saturday is too late, even though that’s the official deadline. The Sitka Post Office doesn’t postmark mail on Saturdays.

Probably the best way to ensure that your ballot is counted is to take it to the special primary polling location at Blatchley Middle School on Friday and hand it in. If you’re one of the people who misplaced the ballot that was mailed to you, you can get a new one from the election worker at Blatchley.

I handed in my ballot on Thursday, and Irene Ferguson was on duty. She said that there had been fairly steady turnout by Sitkans, and poll workers were getting extra training to answer questions from voters – and there are many.

First off, this special primary is just to select someone to serve out Don Young’s term in Congress until January. We each vote for one person on this primary ballot, and then in August, we’ll vote in a special election and decide among the four people who won the most votes in the special primary, ranking them in order of preference. This is the first time for Alaskans to use the ranked-choice voting system, which we adopted last fall.

But at the same time that we’re voting in that special election to temporarily fill Don Young’s seat in August, we’ll also be holding a regular primary, and voting on the candidates we hope to see take Young’s seat for a full two-year term. And we’ll also be narrowing the field of candidates for the US Senate seat currently held by Lisa Murkowski, as well as the statewide offices of governor and lieutenant governor, and Sitka’s legislators in the capitol, who are currently Sen. Bert Stedman, and Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins – although Kreiss-Tomkins has decided not to run again, after serving 10 years.

Our top choices in the August primary will then appear on the general election ballot in November, when we’ll rank our preferred candidates and choose the winners.

And of course, all of this is separate from Sitka’s Municipal Election in October, when we fill seats on the assembly and school board, and decide important local ballot questions.

This all sounds confusing – and it is! Switching to ranked-choice voting was already going to create a learning curve for voters. The untimely death of Congressman Don Young in March unfortunately has compounded that challenge.

Nevertheless, in Sitka – at Blatchley Middle School – and in every community served by KCAW, there is a special primary polling location and a worker like Irene Ferguson who can assist voters navigate this election. But Friday (6-10-22) is the last day to seek their help!