Voter turnout drops by 30 percent between regular election, runoff election

Voter turnout drops by 30 percent between regular election, runoff election

The scenes at Kenai Peninsula polling sites were very different on Oct. 3 and three weeks later on Oct. 24.

On Oct. 3, lines stretched out the door at Soldotna City Hall and at various other polling stations. Parking lots were choked with cars. Poll workers kept the lines moving quickly as they cycled people through the booths. Cookie trays were empty and “I voted” stickers rode on many jackets.

Three weeks later, most polling sites were quiet all day. Early morning snow made the roads slippery, possibly keeping some voters home, and others may not have been aware of the runoff election for borough mayor between Charlie Pierce and Linda Hutchings. Between the two elections, 3,712 fewer people voted.

Pierce won the election by a narrow margin after all absentee ballots were counted.

When the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly certified the election results Tuesday night, he won by 45 votes. He will be sworn in as borough mayor on Monday.

The regular election brought out 12,254 people to vote, 2,853 of them absentee. Only 8,542 voted in the runoff election, 1,666 of them absentee, according to election results. That’s a 30.3 percent drop in participation between the two elections.

The number of voters also dropped off between the regular and runoff elections in 2011, but not by as much. In the regular mayoral election, 10,211 people voted, compared to 9,583 in the runoff, according to borough records. Voter turnout also dropped off in 2005 between the regular election and the runoff — 10,627 voted in the regular compared to 7,668 in the runoff, according to borough records.

Local elections tend to have low voter turnout around the country. A study from Illinois Wesleyan University published in 2016 found that average turnout in large U.S. cities for local mayoral elections averaged about 27 percent, with turnout declining over time. For smaller cities, that average fell around 21.65 percent, according to the study. Having to cast two ballots and return on a separate day for a separate election usually leads to lower turnout in runoff elections, according to voting advocacy group FairVote.

For the runoff election, absentee participation dropped the most — 1,187 fewer absentee ballots came in, according to election results. Every single precinct other than Seldovia/Kachemak Bay and Tyonek had turnout above 21 percent in the first round, but all fell in the runoff, some dramatically. For example, Bear Creek’s voter turnout dropped from 392 ballots cast to 90, falling from 25.24 percent turnout to 5.79 percent. Seward/Lowell Point also fell dramatically, from 489 votes to 136, or from 25.98 percent to 7.38 percent.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

Voter turnout drops by 30 percent between regular election, runoff election

More in News

Tony Izzo, CEO of Matansuka Electric Association, stands with other utility executives on May 25 to describe a $200 million project to upgrade transmission lines along Alaska’s Railbelt. The announcement was made at the Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference in Anchorage. Curtis Thayer, executive director of the Alaska Energy Authority, is at the far left; Gov. Mike Dunleavy is at the far right. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Utilities in Alaska’s Railbelt announce $200M transmission upgrade project

The upgrade will move more energy from the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Plant on the Kenai Peninsula

Silver salmon swim in Sucker Creek on Sept. 18, 2020. (Photo by Matt Bowser/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)
Project to study effect of climate change on salmon streams

The organization will partner with the United States Geological Survey

Wood is piled near the entrance to Centennial Park on Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The campground was closed for most of May while the city worked with contractors to remove trees infested with spruce bark beetles from the property. Southcentral Alaska’s current spruce beetle outbreak has already affected 1.6 million acres of land, including 21,000 acres managed by the Kenai Peninsula Borough. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna beetle-kill efforts boosted by $150K grant

The city has focused recent mitigation efforts on city campgrounds

A spruce bark beetle is seen on the underside of a piece of bark taken from logs stacked near Central Peninsula Landfill on Thursday, July 1, 2021, near Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Emergency harvest of beetle-killed spruce trees approved

The move comes amid an infestation that has spread across Southcentral Alaska

This May 4, 2022, photo shows oceanographers Andrew McDonnell, left, and Claudine Hauri, middle, along with engineer Joran Kemme after an underwater glider was pulled aboard the University of Alaska Fairbanks research vessel Nanuq from the Gulf of Alaska. The glider was fitted with special sensors to study ocean acidification. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
An ocean first: Underwater drone tracks CO2 in Alaska gulf

The autonomous vehicle was deployed in the Gulf of Alaska

The Caribou Fire (#135) can be seen burning about 23 miles northeast of Homer and about 2 miles west of Fox River on May 25, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Fenya Basargin)
Officials warn of wildfire danger ahead of Memorial weekend

Firefighters responded to the Caribou Fire 23 miles northeast of Homer this week

Having made its maiden voyage to Homer in 2003, the USCGC Hickory left Homer on Friday, May 20, 2022, on its way to Baltimore, Maryland, where it will be refurbished before heading to Guam. In December, the USCGC Aspen will arrive in Homer to take the Hickory’s place. (Photo by McKibben Jackinsky)
Hickory changes command — and leaves Homer

After 20 years in Homer, Hickory sails off to new assignment in Guam, with Aspen to replace cutter here

A cruise ship is docked in Seward, Alaska, on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Cruise passengers encouraged to test before docking in Seward

The request comes as new COVID cases are increasing in Alaska

Most Read