Fast action at polling places

Juneau set to beat low voter turnout of 2012 primary election

Juneau and Douglas’ 13 precincts were bustling with voters Tuesday, with several precincts blowing 2012’s primary turnout out of the water before the end of the day.


At 6:30 p.m., 818 people had cast regular ballots at Northern Light United Church. In 2012, a presidential election year, the precinct brought in only 783 total voters: a turnout of about 31 percent.

There was a line out the door to vote a little after 1 p.m. Tuesday.

“Compared to the last election, this is great,” Northern Light poll worker Mary Graham said later in the day. “We’re going to hit 35 percent.”

The location also received 50 question ballots, which voters must fill out if they are voting at a polling place outside of their precincts. Graham estimated Northern Light would get another 100 people before polls closed at 8 p.m.

The story was the same at the Douglas branch of the Juneau Public Libraries. By 6 p.m., the voting station there had had 545 ballots cast. In 2012’s primary, only 451 ballots were cast at the Douglas library, a turnout of about 27 percent.

Precinct chairwoman Stuart Sliter said there had been a steady flow of people through the library polling place all day, “much better” turnout than last time, “which was horrific.”

Sylvia Harvey has been a poll worker for 16 years — this year she was stationed in Douglas. She said she’s seen all kinds of voter turnout over the years.

“It’s been up and down,” she said. “It just depends. This is one of the better primaries.”

Matthew Kern stopped by the library to vote during a run, then laced up his shoes and jogged off again afterward. Another man presented a voter registration card that had seen better days.

“I don’t know how many more elections I’m going to get out of this one,” he said, laughing, to Sliter.

The Mendenhall Mall polling location had a line stretching out the door at about 5:30 p.m. Voters of all ages were casting their ballots, and a lot of little ones helped their parents.

Meagan Moe, 21, was standing at the end of the line, waiting to get up to the busy desks. She said she’s taken every opportunity to vote since she turned 18.

“I grew up in a very political household,” Moe said. “It’s just been part of my system. Once I turned 18, I said, ‘I’m going to vote.’ I’m amazed at how many people my age don’t vote.”

Hillary Crenshaw joked that she was voting to avoid “social ostricization.” She said she’s noticed how doggedly locals have campaigned in the primary — be it for a candidate or for or against Ballot Measure One — right up to the last minute. There were sign-wavers at many major Juneau intersections throughout the day Tuesday.

“People keep yelling at me to vote today,” she said.

Precinct chairwoman Charity Coleman said she’s been working the Juneau polls for three years, and being stationed at the Mendenhall Mall has been the most lively experience yet. Because of its central location, the mall gets a lot more question ballots from people voting outside their precincts, she said.

“It keeps this place really busy,” Coleman said.

Bartlett Regional Hospital saw 408 ballots cast by 8 p.m. In 2012, that number was only 260, a 26 percent turnout. The highest turnout Juneau saw in the 2012 primary was in the Lynn Canal precinct, with about 35 percent; the lowest belonged to the Juneau International Airport area precinct, with only about 16 percent.

Tuesday’s preliminary figures, observed by the Empire at various Juneau polling places, will only climb higher as early, question and absentee ballots are counted in the days following Election Day.

Regional Elections Supervisor Lauri Wilson said early voted ballots have far outstripped those turned in for the 2010 primary, which, like this year, was a gubernatorial race. A group of four Regional Absentee Board members was scanning early ballots Tuesday afternoon at the state Division of Elections regional office in the Mendenhall Mall.

In 2010, only 5,125 people voted early in the primary statewide. A total of 9,524 people voted early this year, Wilson said.

That number doesn’t include absentee ballots or question ballots, which will be counted after other election results are in, she said.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.


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