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Shishmaref votes to keep alcohol ban

  • Author:
  • Updated: May 31, 2016
  • Published October 23, 2013

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

Shishmaref is staying dry.

Residents voted 124-98 Tuesday to reject a proposal to lift a 30-year ban on alcohol in the village, according to unofficial results. A whopping two-thirds of voters cast ballots – more than in the last presidential election.

"All of us were on edge yesterday. A lot of fears, hopes, anxieties," said village suicide prevention counselor Donna Barr, who opposed the push to legalize alcohol in the seaside community of 600.

"Even though the dry won the vote, we still have lots to work on as a community," she said.

A 26-year-old Shishmaref resident collected signatures to place the proposal on the city ballot. Residents debated the vote at a public meeting Saturday, where villagers wondered where kids would go while parents were drinking and called for more activities for young people in Shishmaref, Barr said.

Supporters of the proposal said Shishmaref would benefit from some amount of legal alcohol in order to open a local restaurant that serves beer and wine, reduce illegal bootlegging and teach young people to drink responsibly. Opponents worried unlimited alcohol shipments would lead to binge drinking, suicide and crime.

Threatened by speeding erosion that has forced the relocation of more than a dozen houses, Shishmaref is perched on the northwest edge of the Seward Peninsula. In 2012, only one in 20 Alaska State Trooper calls for service to the village involved alcohol, according to troopers.

Hear three Shishmaref voters talk about why they supported or opposed prohibition in their hometown here.

Elections for city leaders were also on the Tuesday ballot, which was originally scheduled for an Oct. 1 vote. Some family members brought elders to the community hall to vote, Barr said.

The election has not yet been certified. The city will review the results in an election canvas on Monday, the clerk said.

According to the unofficial numbers, 56 percent voted at the village community hall to stay dry and keep the alcohol ban. Forty-four percent voted to legalize sales and importation.