Juneau reports strong turnout at polls

Posted: Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Strong turnout was reported at polling placed throughout Juneau today, but few problems other than minor delays were reported, said Alyce Houston, Southeast Region supervisor of the Division of Elections.

The demand was so strong that polling places were busy all day, though there were lines only in the morning as voters were on their way to work, she said.

“I visited polling places, and didn’t find any lines this afternoon,” she said.

Interest voting was so strong that a mother-to-be in the maternity ward at Bartlett Regional Hospital sought to delay giving birth so she could vote with a “personal representative.” That’s a method by which those who are physically unable to vote are able to cast ballots.

“There was a woman in labor who wanted to stop what she was doing and vote, and she did,” she said.

The personal representative returned a bit later to give the determined voter an “I Voted Today” sticker and found the voter with her new baby, Houston said.

The hotly contested House District 4 seat in Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley, Auke Bay and Lynn Canal saw intense campaigning throughout the day.

There, challenger Cathy Muñoz, a former Juneau Assembly member as well as both the well-known Engstrom and Muñoz families, is facing first-term incumbent Rep. Andrea Doll.

If Republican Muñoz can wrest the seat from Democrat Doll, Rep. Beth Kerttula’s hopes of Democratic control of the state House of Representatives may be dashed.

Sign wavers backing both candidates sometimes shared strategic traffic islands likely to be seen by valley residents, while vehicles converted into mobile billboards drove home the point along busy routes.

Both Republican and Democratic partisans were expecting to gather at Elections Central at Juneau’s Centennial Hall, where the state Elections Division would be tallying ballots and announcing results.

Alaska’s three electoral votes are not thought to be in play despite a determined effort by the Barack Obama campaign. Despite several field offices and active campaigning in Alaska, the addition of popular Gov. Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket by Sen. John McCain likely eliminated the Democrat’s hopes in the state.

Significant interest remains in the re-election bids of Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young. Each Republican has represented the Last Frontier for decades. Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich and former state House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz are challenging Stevens and Young, respectively.

Ethics investigations and a likely strong Democratic year have left both men, icons of Alaska politics, vulnerable to challenge, observers in the state say.

Polls are scheduled to close at 8 p.m. Elections officials say they expect to have initial returns within an hour.

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