Thank you for voting – now, keep up the good work

  • Saturday, August 30, 2014 12:58pm
  • Opinion

There’s some positive news to be gleaned from the state Division of Elections report on the August 19 primary: with absentee and questioned ballots now accounted for, total voter turnout on the Kenai Peninsula was 42.5 percent — even better than the state-wide average of 38.9 percent.

While primary’s partisan races don’t always draw a great deal of voter interest, particularly in a state with so many voters not affiliated with a political party, this year’s August ballot included a measure — the referendum on the state’s oil tax structure — that has the potential to impact the state for decades to come. After a few election cycles with voter turnout in the low 20-percent range, it is refreshing to see peninsula residents exercise their right to vote in more significant numbers.

Peninsula wide, 17,476 of 41,083 registered voters cast a ballot, according to the Division of Elections unofficial results. In House District 29, which ranges from Nikiski down to Sterling and Funny River, and across to Hope, Moose Pass and Seward, 5,685 of 13,291 registered voters, or 43 percent, cast a ballot.

In House District 30, the Kenai-Soldotna area, 5,523 of 13,521 registered voters, or 41 percent, cast a ballot. In House District 31, which includes the area from Homer to Kasilof, 6,268 of 14,271 registered voters, or 44 percent, participated.

For the record, the “no” vote on Ballot Measure 1 won in Districts 29 and 30, while the “yes” vote carried the day in District 31.

While the turnout for the primary was good, there’s still work to be done. You can quibble with the accuracy of the state’s voter rolls, but important decisions are still being made by less than half of state residents eligible to participate in our democratic process.

Municipal elections on the Kenai Peninsula will take place Oct. 7, and the state-wide general election is Nov. 4. If you haven’t already, the last day to register to vote in the municipal election is coming up fast — Sept. 8. The last day to register for the general election is Oct. 5.

There’s a lot of voters to consider in the upcoming elections. In addition to the borough mayor, assembly, school board ancd city government races on the Oct. 7 ballot, Kenai Peninsula residents also will consider ballot measures on animal control, by-mail elections, and expansion of the Southern Kenai Peninsula Peninsula Hospital Service Area. The general election ballot includes races for U.S. Senate and House, governor, the state Legislature, as well as ballot measures to regulate marijuana, increase the minimum wage, and establish protections for Bristol Bay.

None of these choices should be taken lightly, and we urge all Kenai Peninsula residents to do their part. Register to vote, learn about the candidates and issues, and on election day, make sure your voice is heard.

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In other news, Gov. Sean Parnell on Thursday vetoed a measure passed by the Legislature that would have restricted public access to criminal court records, specifically by sealing the records of cases where charges were dismissed of the accused was acquitted.

“The provisions in Senate Bill 108 attempted to solve a complex issue that requires striking the right balance between open and transparent criminal court proceedings, the rights of crime victims, and the rights of persons who have been accused, but never convicted, of a crime,” Parnell said in a statement released by his office. “Unfortunately, the legislation summarily swept all such cases under the cloak of confidentiality in an unnecessarily broad manner, without respect to likely adverse impacts on the public. In my view, the legislation unnecessarily restricted access to criminal court records, which would have adversely affected the ability of Alaskans to protect themselves and to hold their judicial system accountable.”

Instead, the governor made reasonable changes to Alaska Court rules to better protect the privacy and reputation of individual Alaskans.

We agree with the governor’s reasoning, and applaud his action in vetoing SB 108.

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