Early voting began Monday in Alaska, and State Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said the turnout already appears strong for the hotly contested presidential election between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama.
On the first day of early voting, about 2,100 people voted statewide, Fenumiai said. The last presidential election in 2004 saw 10,800 voters show up to vote early. The off-year election of 2006 saw 8,400 early voters, she said.
The Obama campaign in Alaska said an aggressive turn-out-the-vote campaign is part of its strategy, as it tries to overcome the blow of the addition of popular governor Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket.
"Official election day is Nov. 4, but why wait?" said Nate Osburn, Obama's Alaska communications director.
The Obama campaign is making the strongest push by Democrats for Alaska's three electoral votes, an effort usually reserved for important swing states.
"It's just part of making sure every vote is counted," he said.
Osburn said those who cast their votes early know they'll be able to weigh in, no matter what happens later.
"If it's pouring buckets down there, or snowing, on Nov. 4, we want everyone to be able to vote," he said.
Fenumiai said the elections division began to encourage different types of voting in 2000, including voting early and casting absentee ballots in person at regional elections offices.
That enables the election workers to spend the two weeks before the election processing ballots that they'd otherwise have to wait until election day or later to do.
Juneau has two offices where that can be done, either at the Southeast region election office at Mendenhall Mall or at the Elections Division's main office downtown.
"It is convenient for us, and many voters, Fenumiai said.
Absentee ballots have to be reviewed and their signature envelopes compared to state records, but if the voters show up in person before the election, they are checked then instead of being put in an ballot envelope for later review, she said.
"Voter eligibility is done right then and there," she said.
It's too late to register to vote for state matters before the Nov. 4 Alaska election, but it's not too late to actually vote. And even though the election is still a couple of weeks away, it's not too early to vote, either.
Federal law lets citizens register as late as election day, but they can only cast a ballot for the presidential matters, according to the state elections division.