KENAI - More than 60,000 absentee ballot applications have been turned in to the Division of Elections so far, and Alaska could have twice the absentee voters it did in the 2000 presidential election, division director Laura Glaiser said.
Division employees have been working seven days a week and into the night to process the applications, she said. In one day, Oct. 7, the division received 7,000 absentee applications.
There also is greater interest in the option to vote by fax, she said.
"Certainly the interest at that level (absentee and vote by fax) would translate into a large voter turnout," Glaiser said.
Turnout by Alaska voters in the 2000 election was 50.5 percent.
That could be higher Nov. 2. Besides the presidential candidates, this year's election features the most competitive U.S. Senate race in Alaska in years between incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski and Democratic challenger Tony Knowles.
It also includes propositions to legalize and regulate marijuana, abolish temporary U.S. Senate appointments and ban bear baiting.
"Several issues are probably driving people to the polls. It's probably everything. We're just looking at the sheer numbers and trying to figure out how to serve everyone and get the message out," Glaiser said. "I think voters know it's (this election) important."
In 2000 there were 460,855 registered voters in the state. By Oct. 4 of this year, the number was 469,042.
Republicans outnumber other parties in the number of voters affiliated with any party, with 117,500 registered Alaskans. Democrats number about 71,000 and the other parties - the Alaskan Independence Party, the Green Party of Alaska, the Libertarian Party, Moderate Republicans and others - combined have 34,500 affiliated voters.
But more Alaska voters have registered as nonpartisan (69,505) or undeclared (176,663) than for any single party, and election officials say most of the registrants who signed up since Oct. 4 have been in those two categories.
The highest turnout in recent memory was for the 1992 presidential election, when 82.9 percent of registered voters went to the polls. That year, Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush.