Snow and ice may have slowed Juneau voters this morning, but a large turnout is expected by the time polls close at 8 tonight.
Absentee voting increased by nearly 60 percent for today's election, according to City Clerk Laurie Sica. Absentees totaled about 530 in 1999 and, so far this year, walk-ins are "in the neighborhood of 800," she said.
Voting was slow earlier this morning, probably because of the road conditions, Sica said. But later voting was steady, and Juneau Senior Center at the Mountain View Apartments reported more than 100 voters by 8:30 a.m.
"A lot are coming out," Sica said.
Today's election decides the fate of six ballot propositions, along with three assembly races, the mayoral race and three school board races.
Ballot issues, contentious and otherwise, may bring out more voters than in last year's poor showing 34 percent of registered voters according to two seasoned observers.
"A couple of the issues, the road vs. ferry proposition and the flightseeing proposition, are going to bring more people out to vote," said Deputy Mayor John MacKinnon.
The turnout was particularly poor in the Mendenhall Valley in 1999, he said, and a larger valley turnout this year could favor mayoral candidate Jamie Parsons. "The valley tends to be a little more conservative than downtown," MacKinnon said.
It's going to be a "big turnout," said outgoing District 2 assembly member Dwight Perkins, whose constituency is in the valley. "But I think the valley feels less pressure about tourism than downtown, and they'll turn out because they want good schools, which they always support."
Juneau voters will decide whether to renew two sales taxes for five years one for 3 percent and the other for 1 percent. The larger tax funds basic city operations. The 1 percent tax will provide funding to expand Bartlett Regional Hospital, pay off school renovation bonds, and construct a covered ice rink in Savikko Park.
Voters also will vote on $7.7 million in school bonds and on whether the city should convene a commission to deliberate on changes to the city charter.
The ballot also asks voters to decide whether steps should be taken to limit flightseeing noise and operations. And citizens will check off either a road or enhanced ferry service on an advisory vote about what they think is the best way to get out of Juneau.
The mayor's race recently whittled down from four candidates features Parsons, former legislator Sally Smith and marketing consultant Patty Zimmerman.
With no registered opposition, businessman Dale Anderson has a lock on Perkins' District 2 seat.
Conservationist Marc Wheeler is vying with realtor PeggyAnn McConnochie for the remaining two years of the areawide assembly seat vacated in July by Tom Garrett.
District 1 incumbent Ken Koelsch, a U.S. Customs agent, is up against write-in candidate Maridon Boario, a retail worker.
Four candidates are competing for three school board seats: incumbents Chuck Cohen and Alan Schorr, high school student Daniel Peterson and write-in candidate John Greeley, a retired teacher. The top three vote-getters win.
Election central, at the Juneau-Douglas High School commons, will be open to the public at 7:30 p.m. City elections officials will begin reporting returns after 8 p.m.