Prop 1 fails in Kenai, council races unchanged

A proposition that would have allowed Kenai City Council candidates to run for designated seats failed with the inclusion of absentee votes, so council races will continue as usual.

When the polls closed on Oct. 6, it appeared that Prop 1 had prevailed in Kenai, with 407 votes in its favor compared to 400 opposing votes. The measure failed after absentee votes were counted, though only by six votes. The voters were split nearly in half on the issue, with 49.7 percent still in favor of the change to the way candidates run for council seats.

Kenai Mayor Pat Porter, who was in support of the measure, said candidates will continue to run as they have in the past.

In Kenai, candidates run for the two seats that open up each year, and the top two vote getters out of the bunch are the ones to fill them. Proposition 1 would have allowed candidates to run for specific, potentially lettered, seats.

“I think it would encourage more people to run,” Porter said, adding that the proposed system would have allowed candidates to incorporate specific reasons for targeting the seat — and council member — they wanted.

The current system doesn’t allow candidates to challenge the voting and decision histories of council members, Porter said. Sometimes, it’s good to bring those histories to light, she said. Porter added that designated seats could reduce “bullet voting,” the practice of only voting for one seat when the option exists to vote for two, thereby making the single vote stronger.

Council member Terry Bookey said the failure of Prop 1 was good in that voters won’t be limited in terms of candidate selection. For example, Bookey said a situation could arise in which two candidates voters wanted on the council could be running for the same seat, while a candidate the voters didn’t want could be running for a specific seat unopposed.

“It sets up a situation where you’ve got people running against people instead of running for the seat,” Bookey said. “I don’t think that is the best way to do politics.”

The last few elections have been contested, Bookey said, so encouraging more people to run is not on his radar.

“I don’t think that’s a valid argument,” he said. “I don’t see a problem where we haven’t had people running.”

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