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Volunteers Keep Voters Warm, Informed

Jeff Chen
Alaska Public Media

A non-partisan group of 175 volunteers worked polling stations in Alaska on Election Day. Between Ester and North Pole 30 were able to serve most precincts. The statewide group helped with the large voter turnout and educated first-time voters on the process.

The coalition of non-partisan groups is the Alaska Civic Engagement State, or AKCES. They trained volunteers in all the different ways Alaskans can vote, and then fanned out to polling places. In the Fairbanks area, they helped at nearly every precinct.

“Essentially just providing hot drinks, providing people with access to information about language translation or accessibility issues; really just out there in non-partisan ways, just supporting voters.”

Coordinator Jessica Girard worked the “hub” in Fairbanks where volunteers were about to take a batch of hot chocolate to voters waiting in -15F weather.

?“I’ve heard a lot of fun stories about being able to talk to her first time voter, helped with signage, and PPE, or accessibility issues, somebody in Fairbanks helped an elderly woman up the stairs. Things like that. And it just feels like a real community without the partisanship of this moment.

The hub was where volunteers called if they needed expert answers, but it was also where they could report incidents of voter intimidation. Girard says she did not get any when the polls were open.

“It’s been really a positive thing, I think there’s been in Anchorage, particularly a few things that we’re not positive. But in Fairbanks, we haven’t seen any of that.”

The AKCES Table includes the Alaska Public Interest Research Group, The Alaska Center Education Fund, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Native Peoples Action Community Fund, Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition, Native Movement, and YWCA of Alaska.

AKCES comes out of a nationwide election protection tradition that has been around for awhile… led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law since the 1960s. It expanded significantly in 2020 with 42,000 volunteers, up from over 4,000 in 2018 elections.