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Peninsula turnout slightly better than rest of state

Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2002

About one in four registered voters on the Kenai Peninsula cast ballots in Tuesday's primary election -- a slightly higher percentage than statewide, according to the Alaska Division of Elections.

Those numbers don't include the many questioned and absentee ballots that have not been counted.

Pam Crowe, the state's elections supervisor for Region 1, which includes the Kenai Peninsula Borough, said many voters still complained about the new closed primary system and chose not to vote.

"We had people who would voice their opinion both at the polls and on the phone to us," she said. "People who were unhappy about not being able to choose their candidate by crossing party lines."

Many, she said, wanted to know what steps to take to change the system.

"Voters in Alaska sometimes are more independent and vote more on the issues," Crowe said. "Many people may not agree with the concept of primaries being a race within a party. They need to go either through the legislative or initiative process. If voters want to make changes, that's the road they need to take."

The Alaska Republican Moderate and Green parties also were planning Wednesday to file a lawsuit against the state regarding the closed primary system, said District 34 House candidate James Price, a Republican Moderate.

"The California Supreme Court recognized political parties' rights to close the primary if they choose, which motivated the (Alaska) Legislature to close our primary," Price said. "They went beyond the decision by the supreme court, though, and closed the primaries of all parties.

"The bottom line is that the Legislature overstepped its rights to close the primary."

Republican Moderate party chair, Ray Metcalfe, said the lawsuit would be filed in Alaska Superior Court this morning.

But even with some opposition to the new system, 9,010 of 36,193 -- or 24.89 percent -- of registered voters in the borough cast their ballots. Only about 21.41 percent of registered voters statewide cast ballots in the primary.

On the peninsula, turnout was 2,857 out of 11,923, -- or 23.96 percent -- in District 33; 3,025 out of 11,762 -- or 25.72 percent -- in District 34; and 3,128 out of 12,507 -- or 25.01 percent -- in District 35.

Preliminary voter turnout numbers show that 97,034 out of 453,248 registered voters -- about 21.41 percent -- cast ballots statewide. That's the first increase in Alaska voter turnout in a primary since 1990, when turnout jumped from 42.8 percent up to 50.9 percent statewide. Turnout bottomed out at just 17.2 percent statewide in the 2000 primary, according to a media packet compiled by the Alaska Division of Elections.

Traditionally, turnout is higher for general elections, ranging from a low of 54.4 percent to a high of 83 percent between 1976 and 2000.

This year's numbers will remain unofficial until mid-September. The statistics do not include the questioned ballots -- cast by people at improper polling locations -- or mailed absentee ballots, all of which will be counted starting Sept. 6, Crowe said.

Even then, results will not be official until a state review board double checks the count on Sept. 18.



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