As Early Voting Breaks Records, Uncertainty Prevails in the Mayor’s Race

Anchorage votersturned out in record numbers to cast early ballots in Tuesday’s mayoral runoff election. But the figures don’t necessarily mean a big overall turn out.

By mid-day Monday, the city had broken its record for early and absentee votes in a local election.

“We are at 11,167,” said Deputy Clerk for Elections Amanda Moser of the early votes and requests for ballots by mail.

That’s around 3,000 more early votes than were cast last month at this time ahead of the initial mayoral election with a broad field of candidates.

More than 20 people stood in line at the Loussac Library around lunch-time Monday to cast early ballots. The daily numbers of early voters have just about doubled at the polling site compared to past elections, according to Sharron McCracken, an elections official. She attributes the growth to a mix of the mayor’s race getting more interesting in the last month, better promotion from the city Clerk’s office, and plain old convenience.

“Most (people) seem to be just thrilled that they can do it on their schedule,” McCracken said in the library lobby, the line winding past the door, “just real happy to get it out of the way.”

McCracken is quick to counter that increased early returns are no guarantee of high turnout on election day, something she saw in the April election this year.

“Last election we thought for sure the percentage of voters would have been way higher,” McCracken recalled, “and yet then the final total was still only like 27% turnout.” 27.93% to be exact.

“I’m hoping it’ll end up higher,” she added, “but I really don’t have a clue.”

McCracken is not alone in her uncertainty. No public polling data has surfaced in the last month, making it difficult to say which candidate has an edge. With lower turnout, the margins between victory and defeat shrink. In the April election the space between top candidates Ethan Berkowitz and Amy Demboski was just 7,385 votes. Now, margins like that could determine who’s in charge of Alaska’s largest city for the next three years.