The Anchorage Assembly has voted to move municipal elections from Spring to Fall. Proponents argued it would increase voter turnout, which has been low. Critics say local issues will be lost amongst state and national ones.
Assembly member Chris Birch crafted the ordinance changing the election to November to coincide with state and national ones, saying it will keep special interest groups from influencing elections, be more efficient and increase voter turnout.
“I know there’s been some concern voiced at the election polls. I think it’s a good thing. I mean I think if we had 40-thousand people turn out last April and I would think if we had 100-thousand people turn out for an election, that’s good for the community.”
In 1988 the election moved from October to April. The rational was the same as moving it to the fall, higher voter turnout. Since the early 90s voter turnout has averaged around 29 percent. During public testimony people expressed concern that voters would only check a box for the president and leave the rest of their ballot blank. Others said it would be impossible to find enough poll workers to run multiple elections at the same time. Barbara Jones who runs the Clerk’s office agreed. She said the body needed to slow down.
“The Assembly needs to make sure that it’s taking the time to study this issue, to understand the issue, to avoid any unintended consequences. And I would recommend taking some time to look at it. The Clerk’s office hasn’t even been able to express an opinion because it’s during election season and we are trying to plan the April 1st 2014 election. We would like to request that the Assembly take what we believe is prudent action to delay this item until after the election.”
But that didn’t happen. The ordinance moving elections to November passed six to four with Assembly members Tim Steele, Dick Traini, Elvi Gray-Jackson and Paul Honeman the ‘no’ votes and Patrick Flynn absent. The change won’t go into effect until 2017.