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

Stickers are available for voters at the Kenai No. 1 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna to hold ‘I Voted’ sticker design contest

City council members approved the program during their Wednesday night meeting

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks in support of a bill increasing state funds for public education in the Alaska House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bill seeking to bump use of Alaska Performance Scholarship clears the House with unanimous support

The money is awarded to high-performing high school graduates to help pay for postsecondary education at participating institutions in Alaska

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Ryan Anderson answers questions from state senators during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
State officials working to meet Friday deadline for revised transportation plan

The federal government rejected the plan on Feb. 9, citing numerous deficiencies

Travis Every, top left, speaks in support of fishing opportunity for the east side setnet fishery before the State Board of Fisheries at the Egan Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local fishers talk conservation, opportunity before Board of Fisheries in Anchorage

Local fishers from the Kenai Peninsula traveled to Anchorage this weekend to… Continue reading

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, presents information on a bill establishing a voluntary buyback program for Cook Inlet’s east side setnet fishery on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bjorkman bill would pay bonuses to nationally certified teachers

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development estimates that the bonus program would apply to about 215 of Alaska’s estimated 7,315 teachers — about 3%

Alaska senators meet with members of the media to discuss education legislation after a press conference by Gov. Mike Dunleavy on the topic on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Dunleavy threatens veto of education bill if more of his priorities aren’t added

It is not certain there would be the 40 votes necessary to override a veto by the governor

A map displays a wide-ranging special weather statement, published Tuesday by the National Weather Service, covering Southcentral Alaska. (Map courtesy of National Weather Service)
Strong winds, low wind chills forecast through Friday

Wind chills over night may reach as low as -20 to -40 degrees in much of Southcentral

Snow falls atop the Central Peninsula Diabetes Center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. The office opened in October, but a grand opening was held this week. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Central Peninsula Hospital adds Diabetes Center

The center has been seeing patients since October and held a grand opening Monday

Gary Hollier pulls a sockeye salmon from a set gillnet at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Findings from pilot setnet fishery study inconclusive

The study sought to see whether shorter nets could selectively catch sockeye salmon while allowing king salmon to pass below

Most Read