Civic Engagement Challenge

A graphic depiction of an arrow pointing from a magnifying glass and paper to a ballot and an arrow pointing from the ballot to a ballot box on a blue background with red and white stripes on the top and bottom.

APL is committed to connecting our patrons to education, information. To help our community prepare for the November General Election we're hosting a Civic Engagement Challenge. We’ll be walking you through everything you need to know so you can be ready to vote this year. Come back to this page starting September 22nd for weekly challenges. 

We hope you'll join us. Voting matters. Your voice matters. 

In addition to sharing videos, articles and tasks to complete each week, we’re also available to help if you have questions. You can contact a friendly librarian during business hours at  or (907) 343-2975.

Week 1 - September 22nd

Welcome to the Civic Engagement challenge! Over the next five weeks, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to vote in November.

Before we get started, please fill out this brief 1-minute survey.

Let’s get started with this week’s challenge:

  1. Watch the How to Vote in Alaska 2020 video (2.5 minutes)
  2. Are you registered to vote? Check here to make sure you are registered in the right location and find out your polling place. If not, register to vote here!
  3. Finally, if you want to vote by mail, sign up for an absentee ballot. Remember that you do not need to provide a specific reason for requesting an absentee ballot!

You can register to vote and request an absentee ballot online with a valid Alaska driver’s license or ID card, or you can use a paper form - be sure to do this by October 4, which is the registration deadline for the November 2020 election.

Advanced-level challenge:

Already completed all of the above? You rock! Here’s an advanced-level challenge for you:

  • Help three other people check their registration. Ask your friends, family and neighbors if they are registered. If not, share the information above by October 4 to help get them registered.

Additional resources:

Week 2 - September 29th

This week we are going to learn how to figure out what district you are in and who your representatives are – on a local, state, and national level.

This week we have a 3-part task for you to find your representatives:

  1. Federal: U.S. Senators and Congressional Representative. Enter “Alaska senator” or “Alaska representative” into any search engine. No matter where you live in Alaska, our senators and representative to the U.S. Congress are the same!
  2. State: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Senator, State House Representative, (we also vote on Judges). Enter your address into this tool hosted by the League of Women Voters.
  3. Local: Mayor, Anchorage Assembly Member. Enter your address into this tool hosted by the League of Women Voters. You can also look up your Anchorage Assembly representative(s) manually with these two steps:
    • 1) Look up your district number by searching your address here.
    • 2) Visit this page and scroll to your district number to find a short biography and contact information for the Assembly Member representing your district.

Advanced-level challenge:

Already completed all of the above? You’re on fire! Here’s an advanced-level challenge for you:

  1. Contact one of your representatives to tell them about an issue that is important to you. Using the tools above, look up their email or phone number. Make sure contact the correct office holder. If you want to talk about something in your neighborhood, contact your Assembly Member. If you want to talk about a national issue, call your US. Senator or Congressional Representative. Leaders don’t always get a lot of feedback from the people in their district and your voice could make a difference on your issue.

Additional Resources:

Week 3 - October 6th

Over the next two weeks we will talk about how to do research to decide how you want to vote. Let’s jump in!

Your tasks for this week:

  1. Watch one or more of these videos on how to tell if news is fake or legit:
  1. Now, you are ready to spot a fake! Choose two articles from two different news sources that are reporting the same event (try to choose at least one news source that you don’t normally go to). Read through them both carefully. Consider the following questions:
    • Can you identify any biases from the source? Remember that all sources have some kind of bias!
    • What is the same and what is different between the way the two stories are reported?
    • Is there a difference between what the headline says and what you understood from the article?
    • Would you share either of these articles with friends? Why or why not?

This week you’ve learned about looking at the source of articles to see if there is bias, looking for references to supporting sources, reading beyond a headline, and reading other sources. You also learned about the importance of reading an article fully before sharing to social media or with friends. 

Advanced-level challenge:

  • Attend our event co-hosted with Alaska Common Ground to learn about Ballot Measure 1 on October 6th, 7-9pm. You’ll get an overview of the ballot measure, hear a panel discuss the pros and cons, and have an opportunity to ask questions. Register for this virtual event on Zoom at this link

Additional Resources:

Week 4 - October 13th

This week, we’ll continue to learn how to research the information you need to make a decision when voting. Last week, we went over how to tell if the information you’re looking at is reliable.

This week, your task is to research candidates and ballot measures in the upcoming election:

  1. Choose two candidates to research.
    • Start with a basic internet search. What did you find? Are these candidates featured in any articles?
    • If either of the candidates is an incumbent (meaning they are currently serving in office and running for re-election)? What work have they done while serving? What bills did they sponsor? Are they known for particular initiatives?
    • Compare and contrast the two candidates. Do they agree on anything? What do they disagree on? Which candidate do you agree with more?
  1. Research this year’s ballot initiatives which are proposed laws, and bonds, which are proposed government expenditures:
    • Alaska Division of Elections Official Election Pamphlet
      • Municipality of Anchorage and MatSu Borough Vote in Region II
    • Media– look for articles, interviews, and opinions/editorials:
      • Local Newspapers
      • Local Radio Stations
      • Local TV stations

Advanced-level challenge:

  • Attend our event co-hosted with Alaska Common Ground to learn about Ballot Measure 2 on October 14th, 7-9 pm. You’ll get an overview of the ballot measure, hear a panel discuss the pros and cons, and have an opportunity to ask questions. Register for this virtual event on Zoom.
  • Still feeling like you don’t know enough about the candidates or the issues? Try attending a candidate forum or contacting the campaign with a specific question. Most candidates and ballot initiatives have a calendar of campaign events and contact information on their websites.

Additional Resources:

  • Join us on October 21st at 6-7 pm for a Voting 101 session with a representative from the Alaska Center who will go over what you need to know to vote in November – if you would like an opportunity to expand your learning and ask questions, we encourage you to join us! The event will be hosted on Microsoft Teams at this link:
  • Many newspapers will give candidates questionnaires to fill out so you can see how different candidates feel about the same issues.
  • Some candidates, especially those running for State and National legislative positions will have a campaign website. This is a good place to look for information but remember that candidates are using their websites to convince you that they are the best candidate for the job, so be sure to look at other sources of information as well.
  • Look for the "Paid for By" disclaimer that appears on all official campaign materials to determine if the candidate is responsible for the website or marketing item or not.

Week 5 - October 20th

You’re almost to the end of this challenge, but the journey has just begun – we encourage you to continue using these skills as you prepare for the upcoming election and future ones as well.

Your task for this week is to make your voting plan and get prepared to vote! Return to any of the materials from previous weeks as needed while you do your research and decide how you will vote.

  1. Prepare to vote
    • Look up a sample ballot here
    • Read through the ballot carefully and decide how you would like to vote on each item. Remember, you don’t have to vote on every item.
    • Look through this COVID-19 information for voters, provided by the Division of Elections.
  2. Voting in-person
    • Look up your polling place here.
    • Polling places are open 7am to 8pm.
    • Make a plan! What time will you go? How will you get there? If you have a calendar, add voting to it so that you don’t forget.
  3. Voting with an absentee ballot
    • Once you receive your ballot, you can vote!
      • Fill out the ballot.
      • Fold the ballot in half along the line and place inside the grey secrecy sleeve.
      • Place the secrecy sleeve inside the return envelope.
      • Sign the outside of the envelope and fill in one piece of identifying information. A witness is no longer required for your 2020 ballot, but you may still have a witness sign the envelope if you would like. Find more information here.
      • Seal the envelope. Do not rip off the top section of the envelop flap – seal the envelope so that it covers your personal information.
    • The deadline to return your ballot is Election Day – this November, that’s Tuesday, November 3rd.
      • Return by mail by placing a $.55 stamp on the envelope and dropping in any USPS box.
      • Return without a stamp to the collection box located at 2525 Gambell Street by 8pm on November 3rd.

Advanced-level challenge:

  1. Now that you’ve voted, help get out the vote. You can volunteer for a campaign to help with voter turn-out, or call your friends and neighbors to remind them to vote. Can you get 5 people out to vote?

Congratulations!! You have officially finished the challenge! We would love to get your feedback on the experience. Please fill out this brief 2-minute survey.