by KTNA Staff ~ October 1st, 2012
by Melis Coady
The regular election for the Mat Su Borough is Tuesday, October 2nd. How does voter turn-out in the northern Susitna Valley stack up against the rest of the borough at voting time? Low voter turnout In an environment where Talkeetna considers many big issues such as improving the local water and sewage treatment plant and deciphering the impact of the proposed Watana dam, finding a voice in local politics is important.
Recently, Alaska has had great voter turnout in national elections- especially considering its many geographic challenges. In November 2004, 69% of Alaska’s eligible voters came out to vote in the national election and in November 2008 Alaska had the 7th highest voter turnout in the country.
Local elections, however, hold a different score. In the last 17 borough wide elections voter turnout has ranged anywhere from a low 2.9% in January 2002 to a high of only 28.9% in October 2006. Reasons for the low turnout are unclear. Variables may include: uncontested seats, few propositions, and election cycles excluding the Mayor and District Assemblymen. Voters may also have a mind-set that their voice doesn’t count. Alaska is represented nationally by three electoral votes compared to California’s fifty-five.
Nationally and locally elections are sometimes won by a small number of votes. In the borough’s last mayoral race the seat was won by just under 1,350 votes. This district, district 7, has about 12,500 voters. If the upper Susitna valley has just a 15% increase in voter turnout it could be a major voice in any borough-wide election.
Is a 15% increase realistic? Historically only 18% of voters in Talkeetna and Willow participate in local elections and the Trapper Creek average is 10%. The Lazy Mountain region of Palmer has the biggest voice in the borough. Consistently over 30% of their voters come out at election time. Members of their community hold local office at almost every level.
This Tuesday, voters will have an opportunity to vote for candidates for Mayor, Assembly, and School Board. Polls at the Talkeetna and Trapper Creek Elementary Schools and the Willow Community Center will be open from 7am to 8pm.