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

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

More in News

From right, Soldotna City Council members Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings, Dan Nelson and Jordan Chilson listen to testimony during a council meeting on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Council to mull limits on use of Soldotna ADUs as short-term rentals

Accessory dwelling units refer to subordinate, detached units

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Wildlife Troopers and CES rescue hunter missing for 12 hours

State troopers were notified around 6 p.m. Wednesday that the hunter hadn’t returned

The Alaska State Capitol awaits a legislators forming new majority coalitions and the return of Gov. Mike Dunleavy after the winners of the general election were announced Wednesday. The Senate will have a 17-member bipartisan ruling coalition, while the House arrangement remains uncertain due to at least one likely recount and questions about partisan alignments. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Bipartisan majority formed for new state Senate

Eight Republicans join nine Democrats after many years of Republican rule

Dr. Michael Reyes manipulates ROSA during a demonstration at Central Peninsula Hospital on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Knee surgeries get assist from robot arms

Robotic Surgical Assistant, called ROSA, is a new addition to CPH and the first in Alaska

During a hearing at the Juneau Courthouse, 34-year-old Anthony Michael Migliaccio pleaded not guilty after he was arrested on a first-degree murder charge in the killing of a 55-year-old Juneau woman. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Man arrested in Juneau killing pleads not guilty

News follows a two-month investigation.

Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank presents during a budget work session on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai tries again to fill city manager position

After 1st round of negotiations fall through, Kenai to pursue Eubank for role

Soldotna Montessori Charter School kindergartners parade with balloons around the school playground on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Balloons on parade

Montessori kids put spin on traditional Macy’s parade

Most Read