Communities In COVID-19 Lockdown Disbursing Special Needs Ballots To Quarantined Voters

Nov 3, 2020

Toksook Bay, Alaska. Pictured Dec. 14, 2019.
Credit Anna Rose MacArthur / KYUK

Polls will be open this Election Day in Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta communities locked down because of COVID-19. Election workers have devised ways for everyone in their community to vote, despite the pandemic.

In Chevak, Mayor Richard Tuluk says that voting will be staggered, based off of a voter’s COVID-19 status.

“For those people who are negative, they will be able to vote from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.," Tuluk said.

People who are in quarantine because they’re close contacts of infected people, but who have not tested positive for the coronavirus will vote afterwards, between 7 and 8 p.m.

Throughout the day, election workers will deliver absentee special needs ballots to voters in households where people have tested positive for COVID-19.

“Of course, they’ll be wearing protective measures," Tuluk said. "They’ll be outside their houses while they’re voting. That way they sign that ballot and bring it back to the place where we’re voting.”

Absentee special needs ballots are a way for people to vote who cannot get to the polls because of illness, disability, or age. The ballot can be picked up at a polling place by the person chosen as the voter's personal representative. The ballot must be returned to a polling location by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3.

In Toksook Bay, Tribal Administrator Robert Pitka said that election workers will also be delivering absentee special needs ballots to people in isolation or quarantine because of COVID-19. It’s going to be a big job to complete in one day.

“To me, it should have been done last week or so ahead of time. But because of quarantine, it’s been a slow process,” Pitka said.

In Aniak, Elections Chair Francine Kvamme is very familiar with special needs ballots. She’s been delivering them to people in the community since she was helping her mother run elections as a young girl. Her mother was the Elections Chair before her.

“We had some people who were in wheelchairs and couldn’t make it," Kvamme said, "so we brought the paperwork to them, and they filled it out, and they put it in an envelope and sealed it.”

This is the first time that she’ll be delivering ballots because of a pandemic. The election workers will deliver the ballots to voters who request them. Kvamme said that the workers will wear masks and remain outside the voters’ houses.

The workers will also take precautions at the Aniak polling location. Hand sanitizer and masks will be available at the door, and the three voting booths will be spaced 6 feet apart and sanitized between voters.