Could it be that there’s just too many elections?
To say such a thing in a society that values the democratic process may sound like blasphemy, but with the hand-wringing over low turnout for Tuesday’s primary, perhaps it’s time to consider the fact that voters might be burned out on politics.
Indeed, voters had already had multiple opportunities to participate in the process prior to Tuesday’s vote — the Republican presidential preference poll and Democratic caucus back in March and Soldotna’s special election in May. And with the primary in the books, there’s still two more elections to go — the municipal election on Oct. 4 and the general election on Nov. 8.
Combine all that with a Legislature that was in session from January to July, the daily bombardment of the presidential race, and Alaska’s primary system in which political parties dictate who is eligible to vote for their candidates, and it’s easy to understand stand why some voters may have rather gone fishing.
According to the Associated Press, the unofficial statewide voter turnout of 15.44 percent is the lowest primary turnout since the state started tracking it in 1972. On the Kenai Peninsula, turnout in House District 29, which stretches from Nikiski to Seward, was 15.14 percent. In District 30, which covers Kenai, Soldotna and part of Kalifornsky Beach, it was 15.65 percent. In District 31, which stretches from Kasilof to Homer, it was 22 percent.
We understand that voter engagement tends to ebb and flow, and can be driven by the contentiousness of the ballot. Looking ahead, we hope that voter interest picks up as the municipal election has some big questions for voters. In addition to picking candidates for city councils, borough assembly and school board, voters will be asked to consider measures increasing the maximum amount of a sale subject to tax, and phasing out a portion of the property tax exemption for Kenai Peninsula senior citizens.
And obviously there will be big choices to make on Nov. 8 which will conclude what has been a long and unusual political season.
So, if you need a breather, go ahead and take a break from politics for a few weeks. Go hunting, take a hike, read a good book or two.
But when the end of September rolls around, commit to participating in the process. Whether you prefer to vote in person on election day, early at a city or borough clerk’s office, or absentee, please take the time to cast a ballot. The issues facing Alaska, the borough and individual communities aren’t going to go away, and now is the opportunity to pick the people we want to be involved in solving them.