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Unalaska Sees Huge Early Voter Turnout

Hope McKenney/KUCB


It's Election Day, and the polls are open in Unalaska.

143 local early and absentee voters have already cast their ballots at City Hall. And their votes will help determine the presidential race, as well as decide who represents Alaska in Washington D.C. and who controls the state legislature.

"That [number] does not include the number of voters who applied to the State Division of Elections to vote early or absentee via mail or electronic transmission," said Unalaska City Clerk Marjie Veeder.

According to a preliminary analysis by Alaska Public Media, based on Division of Elections data, as of Nov. 1, the division had received 955 absentee ballots from District 37,  which spans much of southwest Alaska, including Bristol Bay, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutians.

According to Veeder, the local early voter turnout was greater than in previous elections. In the 2016 presidential race, 116 early voters had cast their ballots in person by Election Day. 

Veeder said she expects the strong showing to continue Tuesday. As of 2:40 p.m., 310 ballots had gone through the tabulator machine. That doesn't include questioned or special needs ballots that were cast.

That still leaves the big question: Will Unalaskans support Joe Biden, Donald Trump, or another presidential candidate?

Only one Democrat has won Alaska since the state voted in its first presidential election in 1960. But Unalaska has gone back and forth in the last five contests.

In 2016, the community supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Clinton received more than 55 percent of the vote, while Trump received just around 34 percent.  

In 2012, the community helped reelect Democratic President Barack Obama with more than 60 percent of the vote. Obama had lost Unalaska in his first bid for the White House by just a dozen votes, when local voters chose the Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin.

The 2004 race was even closer in Unalaska. The community went blue by just three votes, picking John Kerry over George W. Bush. Four years earlier, Bush won the island by 10 percent.

While it remains unclear as to whether or not Unalaska will vote to keep President Trump in the White House, most polls predict that Alaska will stay red and cast its three electoral votes for Trump. The winning presidential candidate will need a total of 270 electoral votes to claim the presidency.

The polls are open at Unalaska City Hall until 8 p.m. 

If you're not registered to vote yet, you can still register on Tuesday, before voting in the presidential race.

Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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