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Empire Editorial: Thank you for voting

Posted: August 21, 2014 - 12:06am

Congratulations, Juneau: You showed up.

According to the Alaska Division of Elections’ preliminary numbers, Election Day voter turnout in House District 34 (which includes the Mendenhall Valley) hit 35.6 percent. In House District 33 (which includes downtown Juneau), turnout reached 35.94 percent.

It might be silly to get excited that only one in three registered Juneau voters bothered to exercise their right to vote, but we’ll take any good news on the polling front. For the past few years, we’ve seen voter turnout — especially in primary elections — decline. Two years ago, for example, Valley turnout was only 27 percent. When crucial decisions are being made by only one in four Alaskans, that’s bad for democracy and bad for you in particular.

A lot of you seemed to agree with us on Ballot Measure 1: In every precinct from Thane to Skagway, “Yes” votes outnumbered “No” ones. In downtown Juneau, “Yes” outpaced “No” by a six-to-one margin. It’s too bad the rest of the state didn’t agree.

You might have been interested in Ballot Measure 1 or you might have been fascinated by the Republican U.S. Senate battle. We don’t know what drove you or what you drove, but we’re glad you drove to the polls. Voter turnout in House Districts 33 and 34 beat the turnout in Fairbanks and Kenai, places ordinarily consumed by oil issues.

The challenge now is to keep up the interest. Juneau has a municipal election Oct. 7, and as bad as turnout has been for state primaries, it’s been even worse for municipal elections. We hope that trend will be reversed this year, thanks to the widest selection of candidates in recent memory.

We’re less worried about turnout in November, but we’d still like you to show up and vote then, too. With a white-hot U.S. Senate race on hand and crucial voter initiatives including the legalization of marijuana and an increase in the minimum wage, your vote (and those of your friends) could be the thing that swings an issue.

On Tuesday night, the first returns showed “Yes” and “No” on Ballot Measure 1 separated by just five votes. Imagine if that margin had stood throughout the night. Imagine how you would have felt if you missed your chance to make your voice heard.

We frequently complain that we don’t like the way our government operates. Voting is your chance to make a difference. Don’t miss out.

• Empire editorials are written by the Juneau Empire’s editorial board. Members include Publisher Rustan Burton, rustan.burton@juneauempire.com; Director of Audience Abby Lowell, abby.lowell@juneauempire.com; Managing Editor Charles L. Westmoreland, charles.westmoreland@juneauempire.com; and Asst. Editor James Brooks, james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com.

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