Preliminary Voter Turnout Below Average in Anchorage Municipal Election
ANCHORAGE – While election officials reported unprecedented crowds at local polls Tuesday, preliminary turnout numbers are roughly four points below the municipality’s 20-year average.
With all but two precincts reporting Wednesday morning, nearly 27 percent of registered voters had cast their ballots by the time the polls closed the night before. The number stacks up favorably to turnouts four years ago, when only 23 percent of registered voters made an appearance. Four years prior, during the April 2006 election, 35 percent of registered voters cast a card.
The Municipal Clerk’s office said numbers reported last night don’t include early voting, questioned and absentee ballots. After multiple precincts reported running out of certain types of cards, Deputy Municipal Clerk Jaqueline Duke said her office received thousands of questioned ballots when voters were forced to use them as an alternative. In some precincts, voters reported being turned away altogether when there were no ballots left.
The situation prompted the Municipal Attorney’s office to look into the possibility of voter disenfranchisement and its impact on the validity of the election. The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska has also set up a hotline for voters who have concerns about last night’s process.
Ballot shortages weren’t the only issue effecting the total count: Misinformation passed along by opponents of Proposition 5 told people they could register to vote at polling places Tuesday, contrary to municipal law requiring voters to register 30 days prior to the election.
The Municipal Clerk’s office reported 121 ballots were cast by last-minute registrants yesterday, and they will “likely not have their votes counted.”
As it stands, results reveal a win for incumbent Mayor Dan Sullivan, with nearly 60 percent of the vote, compared to 38 percent cast for challenger Paul Honeman. School board candidates Kathleen Plunkett, Tam Agosti-Gisler and Natasha Von Imhof unofficially won their seats with at least 15 percent leads over other candidates.
Proposition 1, a nearly $60 million bond for area schools, passed with more than 57 percent of the vote, and the $27 million service area bond detailed in proposition 2 passed with nearly 65 percent. A nearly $3 million bond for local park renovations passed with nearly 50 percent of the total vote, and a $1.5 million bond for emergency services and public transportation passed with nearly 66 percent of the vote.
More than 58 percent of voters said no to proposition 5, which would have included sexual orientation and transgender identity to the list of classes legally protected from discrimination. Proposition 7, a property tax exemption for spouses of U.S military men and women killed on duty, passed with more than 75 percent of the vote.
The Municipal Clerk’s office is in the process of finalizing, organizing and counting absentee and questioned ballots, and a final decision and count will be made at a public canvass scheduled for April 11.