Voters on the Kenai Peninsula flocked to the polls Tuesday. Turnout was about 50 percent, way up from the 18 percent in the October municipal election.
Unofficial totals showed 49 percent of registered Alaskans casting votes, compared with preliminary estimates of 50.7 for the nation as a whole.
"It has been a very exciting election," said Pam Crowe Wednesday from her office at the Division of Elections in Juneau.
The state election supervisor for Region I, which includes the Kenai Peninsula, had worked through the night along with her crew.
"The election workers did a great job, and the turnout was fabulous," she said.
The state turnout tally will creep upward as mail-in and questioned ballots are counted over the next 10 days, but it is unclear if the state total will reach the 59 percent final participation rate achieved in the 1996 presidential election.
Crowe said the state does not estimate how accurate the numbers of registered voters are, but the roles are inflated with the names of people who have left the area but not been purged.
"We have a pretty high turnout," she said of this week's election.
The state will perform additional counts on Nov. 17 and possibly Nov. 22. When the counts are complete, the state review board will meet to finish the process. Election officials expect the election to be certified and the counts made official on Dec. 4, Crowe said.
Preliminary figures from peninsula precincts show the turnout to be fairly consistent throughout the borough.
The highest turnout so far was recorded in the off-road south peninsula village of Nanwalek, where 56 of the 94 listed voters cast ballots. Other precincts reporting more than 50 percent participation were Kasilof South, Kalifornsky Beach, Kenai No. 3 and Nikiski.
Peninsula precinct workers were thrilled by the turnout after a series of lackluster local races.
"There were obviously a lot of people we don't usually see voting." said Betty Obendorf, who has worked at the Kasilof North polling site for about 15 years.
"We were having to explain how to vote," she said.
Many voters appeared unfamiliar with the Accu-Vote system, which has been used in every Kenai Peninsula election since 1998, she said. The high turnout, a shortage of booths and the lengthy ballot made for lines at the polls.
"It took people a long time to vote," Obendorf said. "That shows they were being thoughtful. That's a good thing, not a bad thing."
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