Brennan: Forget about voter turnout

By Tom Brennan

To heck with boosting voter turnout. Hounding people to vote just encourages people to decide on candidates and issues that many of them know little-to-nothing about.

Let those who know enough about the candidates and issues to make them want to vote do so. At election time, the best thing for the public interest would be for the uninformed to throw their ballots in the recycling bin.

Special interest groups like unions conduct vigorous get-out-the-vote campaigns and that won’t change. In most cases one of the most important things those voters want to know is where their interest groups stand on the candidates and the issues. Union campaigns are an education effort and, though I often disagree with unions, one that serves the interests of their members pretty well. And their campaigns are not a bad thing, at least for those who belong to unions.

What is needed most are strong efforts by interest groups such as the Republican and Democratic parties to educate people about the candidates and questions that will be before them on the ballot. Republicans want to know which candidates agree with them on key matters. Same with Democrats. Those are the people the parties should try to put in office by supporting them and making an active effort to get their constituents to vote for them.

Other interest groups, seniors for example, need to educate their supporters about candidates and issues. Many sit on their hands when they should be doing what the unions do. They should be helping the members of their groups decide and then vote for people who will represent them best and support what matters to them. And in most cases what matters to them includes, in addition to their individual interests, what is best for Alaska and all its people.

The effort, and the money required for such efforts, would be best spent by working intensively during the entire campaign period. Waiting until Election Eve is a risky and often unfruitful strategy. Skipping most of the campaign season and hounding people at election time undermines the integrity of the system by failing to encourage thoughtful decisions.

Elections would be more expensive for interest groups than if they waited until the end is near, and government agencies probably wouldn’t save anything over the way things are done now. But it should result in a more informed public, a public with a much better understanding of how the people they vote for are likely to perform in office — and how they are likely to vote on key issues.

Right now, the unions and other well-financed interest groups are getting the job done. And their members and supporters seem to be voting when they are asked to. Groups that let things ride just don’t care enough to be bothered.

Most interest groups do make an effort of some kind to impact election results but it is not clear that they really appreciate just how important their educational efforts can be. If they did the sound of their voices might be much louder.

* * *

The Legislature should kill that proposal to spend $4.5 million to resurrect the Knik Arm Crossing scheme. That is a stupid idea and would be a waste of four-and-a-half big ones.

Estimates of the total cost of building the crossing range from $700 million to $3 billion and driving across the thing would require paying a toll of $5 to $10. Give me a break. Does anyone really believe people would pay a toll rather than take the free option of driving to the Valley via the Glenn Highway, which is not significantly longer?

The only time the crossing would be used by most people would be when the next truck rams into a Glenn Highway bridge and blocks traffic. I got caught in the traffic jam that resulted from that accident on March 21 and it was frustrating, making me a couple hours late in getting home. The long delays lasted several days and waits got even longer.

But I have lived in Alaska 51 years and can testify that such traffic-jamming disasters have happened, as an old friend of mine would say, an even once. The March 21 accident, and its resulting traffic jam-up, was literally a once-in-a-lifetime event. Previous closings have been resolved in a matter of hours.

Spending $4.5 million on the unlikely and impractical prospect of building an alternative route across Cook Inlet would be a foolish waste of the public’s money.

One Response to Brennan: Forget about voter turnout

  1. Edward Martin Jr May 16, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    Brennan you tie things together but the real risk and consequence of the election vs. party vs. ballot(s). Money may have nothing to do with any of it!
    What happens if a citizen sues about the “all” but the Republican Party Ballot, being to confusing with the potential of non- comprehension. I am glad now that the Republican Primary is closed with a true line to a clean vote!
    If one wanted to vote Republican and Libertarian can it be done??? Will this election be a sham if that becomes the case ether way? Ink will take shape on any paper Ballot. whether or not the Election Division makes a call on this up- coming vote…beware Alaskans! I feel like I may be voting in a Bush Community before this is over. Ha ha


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