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Voter turnout not nearly as bad as Clarion reports

Posted: Wednesday, October 27, 2004

In recent years, we've become accustomed to the inevitable "poor voter turnout" lecture from our local math-challenged reporter or editor, following each election. The message is clear "Shame on you bad citizens only 26 percent of you bothered to vote." At least this last time you dispensed with the silly habit of carrying yourfigure out to a mind-boggling hundredth of a percent, as in the past.

I felt a bit defensive though, when it was suggested that many of our apathetic citizens must have been watching a ball game. We are told we should be ashamed of our poor numbers!

I have some bad news for the editor. It is your illogical conclusion based on pie-in-the-sky voter registration numbers that begs scorn, rather than the actual voter turnout. We have nothing to be ashamed of at all.

For starters, let's look at the official number of registered voters you use in arriving at your false conclusion 37,731. Fat chance.

Please consider that there are only about 36,000 adults living on the Kenai Peninsula (check quickfacts or any other credible source). Are we to believe that not only is every single adult on the peninsula registered, but some of them are registered more than once?

The first thought that might come to a logical mind is "Why isn't some sharp reporter investigating and writing a story about this fraud?" Of the37,731 names on the list,many thousandshave long since moved away and have been voting in other states for years. This is no secret as acall to the borough office will confirm.

It takes years for the average name to be removed from the registration rolls. So the real question should be: "How many registered voters do we have living here now?" It's a reasonable question, if you wish your data to be meaningful. (You do, don't you?) Across America, study after study has shown that a bit less than two out of three adults are registered to vote. In most locales about 65 percent of eligible adults register. There is no reason to believe that in Alaska, the rates are significantly more or less. Let's use common sense, perhaps combined with 20 minutes of research, before further bashing of your paying customers. We here on the peninsula are not really the apathetic scofflaws our kind editor would have us believe.

Isn't it possible, even likely, that there are actually only about 23,000 registered voters on the peninsula (about two-thirds of total adults?) Think about it.

Twice over the years I have called the reporter who wrote the requisite public-bashing, "poor turnout" article, only to be told "Well that's the official number of people on the rolls, so by golly that's the number I used!" My meek response was "So you knowingly used false information to reach a grossly inaccurate conclusion, for the purpose of chastising your paying subscribers, and you offer nothing but that lame excuse?"

Of course, my kindinquiry was rudely rebuffed in both instances, as if I were a child, too stupid to just blindly accept the grossly bloated figure, with theresulting low turnout percentage. Who am I to question a reporter's "facts"?

If you divide the 9,000 who voted in our local election by a realistic number, say 23,000 or 25,000,you will get something much closer to the true voter turnout. It's much closer to 40 percent than it is to 26 percent, and that compares favorably with averages from across America. A rational person must conclude that your substandard level of research is much more embarrassing than our actual voter turnout.

Further, your inference that our society is somehow made better by herding uninformed voters to the polls doesn't wash. Many of us are content to know that the 40 percent of theregistered voters who vote are those who have some knowledge of the issues. That's a good thing, isn't it? Congratulations to all of you out there, and don't take the Clarion's uninformed lecture to heart. With our guidance and insistence, they can do better.

Let's have some factual reporting for this coming general election, using legitimate data, for a refreshing change of pace. Best regards to the Clarion staff. And for you uninformed voters, do the right thing, and stay home. Thanks.

Ryan Tremblay, Nikiski



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