This photo shows a by-mail ballot sent to an Alaska voter in October. Monday marked the first day of early in-person voting for the 2020 general election. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

This photo shows a by-mail ballot sent to an Alaska voter in October. Monday marked the first day of early in-person voting for the 2020 general election. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Record number of mail-in ballots may lead to shifting election results

Absentee ballots aren’t counted until after Election Day

This story has been updated with additional information.

Though the process may take longer this year, Alaska’s elections are as safe and secure as they have ever been, Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said.

Despite the record number of by-mail ballots and other complications created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Division of Elections officials emphasized Monday that the upcoming general election on Nov. 3, is being run with integrity and all results are unofficial until certified by election officials.

In a press conference with reporters, Fenumiai said this election was being conducted in the same way as every other election in the state’s history.

“All results are unofficial, unofficial, unofficial until they are certified,” she said. “Having record numbers vote by mail is challenging. The more ballots the more time it takes to log, review and count.”

Fenumiai said the division is trying to make voters aware there may be a shift in results in the days following the election as more mail-in ballots are received and processed.

[Voter turnout for by-mail election highest since 2000]

Alaska starts counting absentee ballots seven days after Election Day, according to DOE’s website, and must be counted within 15 days. The results announced on Election Day would only include election day and early voting ballot counts, she said.

“We just keep wanting voters to know, numbers can change,” she said.

After the Alaska Supreme Court upheld a decision to waive the witness requirements on mail-in ballots earlier this month, the Division has done significant public outreach on voter education, Fenumiai said. The division is also trying to educate voters on other aspects of this years election, including alternative forms of voting.

Early in-person voting began Monday, and reporters on the call reported long lines in cities across the state. In Juneau, early voting is available at the State Office Building, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Oct. 20 to Nov. 3. and the Mendenhall Mall, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. The state sent out a record number of mail-in ballots, Fenumiai said, and had already received back more than 35,000.

Fenumiai said in an email,Monday afternoon that 3,259 voters had already voted early. That’s more than 40% of the total early ballots cast in the August primary elections.

“That compares to the entire 15-day voting period of the 2020 primary where 7,756 voted early,” she wrote, adding the total number of early voting ballots cast in the 2016 and 2018 general elections were 39,242 and 41,518 respectively.

Several reporters asked about voters being misinformed about the election process, to which Fenumiai said Alaskans should look first at what the Division of Elections says.

“We’re the main source (of information), really the only source they should turn to,” she said. “We’re letting people know, maybe they said this over here or over there but what does DOE say?”

The deadline to register to vote is passed, but voters can still submit applications for absentee mail-in ballots until Oct. 24, DOE’s website said. Additional information on polling places and mail-in ballot status can be found at the website as well.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

More in News

Meals slated for children in Juneau over Thanksgiving weekend are arrayed on tables at Thunder Mountain High School on Nov. 25, 2020. (Courtesy photo / Luke Adams)
Font of plenty: JSD readies meals for Thanksgiving holiday

Nearly three tons of food got distributed for the long weekend.

Travelers arrive at the Juneau International Airport on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, made up only about half of what the airport normally sees in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Centennial Hall, seen here on Tuesday, Nov. 24, is being used by the City and Borough of Juneau as an emergency facility during the coronavirus pandemic and will not host the annual Public Market which has taken place every weekend after Thanksgiving since 1983. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Want to buy Alaskan? Closed by pandemic, Public Market goes virtual

Normally throngs of Juneauites would be lined up around the block…

To capture the unexpected action- the unrepeatable moment- it should be instinctive.  In order to build the story you have to shoot the adjective.  In this photo the bald eagle had waited patiently for the right moment to pounce on an unsuspecting vole… the unexpected.  The best way to accomplish this is to master the art of the most difficult subject to photograph– birds in flight.  In order to do this you must learn your gear; it must become part of your muscle memory so you can concentrate on the story you are witnessing.  Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 150-600mm, shot at 600mm, ISO AUTO (1250), F6.3, 1/3200, Handheld. (Courtesy Photo / Heather Holt)
Focal Point: Great photos are just waiting in the wings

Learn to shoot the verb (and the bird).

Has it always been a police car. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Construction of the new Glory Hall, above, is going smoothly, said executive director Mariya Lovishchuk on Nov. 24, 2020. (Courtesy photo / Thor Lindstam)
Building a brighter future: New Glory Hall reaches skyward

The structure is rapidly progressing, shouldering aside inclement weather.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Tuesday, Nov. 24

The most recent state and local numbers.

A sign seen near Twin Lakes on Sept. 17 encourages residents to wear cloth face coverings while in public. Health officials are asking Alaskans for help with contact tracing. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Health officials seek help with virus notification

Recent surge created a contact tracing backlog.

Most Read