Tuesday's borough elections saw a tremendous response as voters turned out to voice their opinions on subjects ranging from who should be Kenai's mayor to whether a private prison should be built within the borough.
"Almost 11,000 voters showed up," said borough clerk Linda Murphy said. "That's a very good turnout -- about 35 percent or more of registered voters. We had a record number of absentee ballots cast."
Altogether, Murphy recorded 10, 883 voters in at least one of the proposition elections and 10,820 from the school board race (not counting absentee votes). She said she was happy with the overall turnout.
"I hate to say it, but that's actually a good number," Murphy said. "It would be good to say that 35 percent was a poor number, but that's not the case."
Turnout was so large that at least a few precincts ran out of ballots. At 7:45 p.m., the Borough Building in Soldotna saw a handful of voters trailing in before the polls closed. As each voter walked up to the table for the Ridgeway precinct, they were told of a change in the way things were to be done.
"You'll notice that there's a big 'X' at the top of the ballot," said election judge Valerie McKenney. "We ran out of ballots for our precinct. These are exactly the same as the ballots we would use except for the selection at the top that has been crossed out."
The workers substituted ballots for both the Ridgeway and Sports Lake precincts.
The issues and the candidates were the stars of Tuesday's show, but, behind the scenes, the supporting cast of election judges and the borough clerk's office helped to make the day a success.
"This is the best borough election I've ever seen," said Beverly Wellborn, the Salamatof election precinct chairperson. "We had people waiting at the door when we opened."
Wellborn said she has worked the polls for 28 years. She said she believe the recent terrorist tragedies of Sept. 11 spurred voter attendance.
"We've had important issues," she said, "but I've never seen people turn out like this. People are (probably) thinking, 'I should've been doing this all the time.'"
Wellborn worked with three other election workers, each of whom committed to the entire day, from 6:30 in the morning until well after the polls close at 8 p.m. She said she didn't mind, because she enjoyed working with the people.
"We like to visit with our patrons," she said. "When you've been working here a lot of years, you see a lot of the same people."
At Nikiski High School, the voting precinct enjoyed twice the size of its usual 95 voter tally by 11 a.m.
"We usually have about 50 percent of the number of voters," said Betty Idleman, an election judge at Nikiski High School. "We've had to have people wait."
Precinct chair Dorothy Lentz said she was not surprised, however.
"It's kind of right at where we thought," said Lentz. "When there are particular issues, there's a big turnout."
The Nikiski site made up where its neighbors to the south lacked in snacks. Lentz offered goodies to voters leaving the polls.
"We did this a couple of years ago," Lentz said, "and it went over so well that we kept doing it."
Aside from assisting with voting, election judges had voter registration applications that prospective voters could fill out to be eligible for future elections. Efforts to encourage future voting, however, extended beyond the reach of those assigned to monitor the election and register new voters.
Nikiski 12th-grade government teacher Bob Bird sent some of his seniors down to the voting center at the high school, where those who either were 18 or would be within the next 90 days signed up. Later, Bird had a discussion with his two senior classes about the responsibility of voting.
"I told them that voting is only the start of their civic responsibility," Bird said.
"You need to be involved in city government. Attend city council meetings. Be involved in a political party."
Workers at the National Guard Armory in Kenai said they saw a substantial increase in their numbers during the lunch hour of 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Two hours after that, the four Kenai precincts had recorded a combined total of 984 votes.
Two Kenai Central High School seniors at the National Guard Armory, said their government teacher, Nathan Kiel, offered his students extra credit to go to the polls and fill out a sample ballot.
"He wants us to get more involved with the community," said 17-year-old J.D. Pault. "I'll definitely vote when I'm 18. I want my input in town business."
Classmate and fellow trial voter, Caleb Schooley, said he learned from preparing for the elections.
"We've tried to cover both sides of the issues," he said, "I looked at everybody's profiles. Although now it's kind of exciting to come in here, when you register, you get to say something that counts."
At the end of the evening borough clerk Murphy said that, although the day had it's share of mishaps, it was a huge success.
"It was certainly a hectic day," Murphy said. "But we had a larger than expected turnout."
She indicated that, in spite of the shortage of ballots, the borough was prepared.
Murphy also noted other problems that confounded ballot counting.
"Our modems were having some trouble," she said.
"Ninilchik had to verbally transmit their numbers which were then manually uploaded," she said. "Kasilof South, at Tustemena Elementary School, had to drive their results in when they were cut off."
She said Kasilof North, at Skyview High School, needed similar work-arounds to transmitting their vote totals.
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