Change Anchorage’s election date
Unofficial returns show Mat-Su Borough voters narrowly passing a measure that would move local elections to November to simplify their election process and boost turnout.
Anchorage, with its anemic voter turnouts, should be so lucky. Its April elections serve the interests of only special interests that thrive on suppressed election turnouts, interests such as labor unions and the political left.
In April’s election, only 36 percent of the Anchorage’s 218,000 registered voters bothered to cast ballots, despite the city’s ballyhooed, new-fangled vote-by-mail system. That means slightly more than 3 in 10 registered voters elected a mayor and school board members, passed millions of dollars in bonds and changed the city charter so that the Municipal Light & Power utility could be sold.
When you consider Anchorage’s total population of about 300,000, the 79,000 or so who voted in April represent only about 26 percent of the city. That is abysmal.
Anchorage adopted April elections in the early 1990s, after a campaign by former Assemblyman Jim Kubitz to switch the date from October. Candidates, the argument went, could not get exposure or financial backing with the city election so close to the November state and federal elections.
Before 1994, the city’s then-October elections boasted turnouts of 35 percent-55 percent in mayoral years and 20 percent-50 percent in Assembly years. After 1994, the election was moved to the spring and turnout fell to 30 percent-35 percent in mayoral years and 20 percent-35 percent in Assembly years.
An unusual special election in November 2004 to approve two bond propositions that put the lie to the notion that November elections would not draw city voters. Anchorage contracted with the state to run that special election, which was held on November 2004’s general election day.
A stunning 52 percent of the registered voters already at the polls for the state and federal contests cast ballots in the municipal election.
It is well beyond time for Anchorage to follow Mat-Su’s lead and move our April election to November. It would boost turnout, save money and make ultimate good sense.
Only those seeking political advantage from the suppressed voting of the current April elections have reason to oppose the change.