Local voters stay away in droves

Zaz Hollander

Local voters around Alaska on Tuesday decided everything from the makeup of city councils to the way their groceries are bagged.

A few local voters, that is. Most stayed away from the polls as municipal elections were held around Alaska, with Fairbanks and Juneau reporting the lowest turnout in 10 years or more. Fewer than 1 in 5 Mat-Su voters cast ballots.

The tallies are still unofficial; absentee and questioned ballots need to be reviewed and election results certified.

In Homer, voters repealed a city code banning the use of disposable plastic shopping bags. Fairbanks voters gave Tanana Chiefs Conference attorney John Eberhart a slim lead over downtown business owner Vivian Stiver with more than 400 ballots still to be counted in the Fairbanks mayor's race. Former Ketchikan Borough Assembly member Kate Troll appeared to be winning an assembly seat with the City and Borough of Juneau.

In the Mat-Su, early estimates put voter turnout at just over 16 percent, although that's expected to rise after absentee and questioned ballots are counted. And some data entry errors reportedly surfaced Wednesday as the borough canvassing board started to review outstanding ballots, closing the gap in two contested Assembly seats.

Along with the votes tallied Tuesday, some 1,895 absentee and questioned ballots were issued, according to the borough. The election will be certified by Oct. 15.

Borough-wide voters approved $16.2 million in bonds for school road projects. Races for Borough Assembly seats were both too close to call, with challenger Matthew Beck very narrowly leading incumbent Noel Woods for District 2 and two-time Green Party U.S. Senate candidate Jim Sykes narrowly led Doug Glenn in District 1. In Mat-Su Borough School District races for Seat F, challenger Donna Dearman had a lead over incumbent Neal Lacy. For Seat G, Ray Michaelson edged out incumbent David Cheezem.

In Wasilla, a 1 percent sales tax increase to help build a library appeared to be passing but was too close to call. For city council, incumbent Brandon Wall defeated former Rep. Vic Kohring by a two-to-one ratio for Seat F. Gretchen O'Barr ran unopposed for Seat E. David S. Wilson was edging out Glenda Ledford and ahead of Holly M. Herrick for Seat A.

In Palmer, Mayor DeLena Johnson appeared to be holding off challenger Linda Combs. Edna DeVries, an incumbent, and Steve Carrington, a challenger, were leading in voting for city council; incumbent Kathi Vanover and challenger Elden Tritch didn't get enough votes to win the two open seats.

Unofficial voting results in Houston showed an extension of a fireworks sales tax passing. In the lone contested city council race, James Johansen was leading Ron Gaffney.