'Juneau Votes': New community group to encourage democracy

With election season looming, and political ads becoming a more frequent part of our daily lives, Juneau residents can expect another charged campaign to fight for their attention and votes — Juneau Votes.

 

Juneau Votes is a newly formed, non-partisan, collaborative community project whose goal is to increase voter registration, education and turnout. So while your television and radio may be screaming on who to, or not to, vote for, Juneau Votes is really only concerned about the community voting period, no matter for whom the ballot is cast.

Juneau Public Libraries director Robert Barr and Thunder Mountain High School teacher Mara Early presented the idea behind Juneau Votes at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday. Both Barr and Early are members of Juneau Votes.

Barr said the idea came up while working on a project with the League of Women Voters in May.

“I started thinking about this after the last municipal election, where the percentage of registered voters that voted in that elected was 19.1 percent,” said Barr. “Then just a couple of weeks ago, in May, I was working with the League or Women Voters and we were wrapping up a project … We were both planning on doing some type of voter turnout and registration campaign for this election season, so we decided to combine and form Juneau Votes.”

The goal is to get more people in the community to register and show up on Election Day.

“Juneau has seen a slight population growth and yet the voter registration hasn’t increased with it,” Early said. “In 2006 through 2012, we kind of wavered around the high-20 percent (voter turnout) range, or, if we were lucky, up to 40 percent. Last year, of course, was the 19.1 percent. We’re trying to eliminate the gap between registered voters and actual voters.”

In an effort to reach as many people in the community as possible, the group is assembling key pieces of information about the upcoming election now. This information includes: why voting is important, how to vote, information on what’s going to be on the ballot, who is running, what their platforms are and how you can find out more information about them. To get this information out, Juneau Votes will be handing out fliers, posting on their social media page, fundraising to pay for advertising, participating in the 4th of July parade and even hosting a series of panel discussions.

“For the first ballot initiatives, we’re planning a panel discussion on SB 21,” Barr said. “We’ll have two people for it, two people against it, and then a Q-and-A session with the audience so they know what the initiative is about.”

To avoid being too idealistic, Juneau Votes will go into election the season with specific numbers and statistics in mind.

“After November 4, when we get all the statistics in and get the numbers tallied, we will be doing an evaluation and a report that we’ll publish on the CBJ website,” Barr said. “It will have all the inputs, all the time and effort and expenses that went into the program. All of the outputs: we’ll see how many people we registered, what the voter turnout was, and how much of that we think can be attributed to the efforts of this work.”

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