Local News

Turnout slow in Sitka “super-precinct”

Election workers Paula Hardy, Keith Nyitray, and voter Harvey Brandt at Harrigan Centennial Hall Tuesday afternoon. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

As of 3PM this afternoon (8-28-12), turnout was relatively low in Sitka, but neither poll workers or voters were blaming the new super-precinct at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Pauline Fredrickson, who in the past has voted at Sitka Number 2 at the United Methodist Church on Kimsham Street, said she had completely forgotten that today was the primary election. But, once she remembered, she had no trouble finding her way down to Harrigan Centennial Hall.

“It makes sense,” Fredrickson said.

Voter Charles Bingham also had no problem with the consolidated precinct, but, as a downtown resident, he had always voted at Harrigan Centennial Hall in the former Sitka Number 1. Bingham was concerned that some voters who lived out on Sitka’s road system might find the new super-precinct a problem, if they lacked transportation. He conceded, though, that Sitka’s bus system would be a convenient solution.

Just over 300 ballots had been cast in each of Sitka’s two new precincts by mid afternoon, trailing Sitka’s previous low-turnout election: the 2006 mid-term primary. Election worker Dorothy Orbison said her former Sitka Number 1 precinct at Harrigan Centennial Hall that year was 20 votes ahead of two of the newly-combined precincts this year.

No one was pointing fingers. Pre-election forecasts suggested that it might be a low turnout election in Sitka: The ballot had no contested legislative races, the race for Alaska’s lone seat in the US House of Representatives has been low-key, compared to past years, and the two questions on the ballot – though important – were tepid compared to some other recent initiatives surrounding the Pebble Mine and cruise ships.

And let’s not discount the “culinary” challenges during the primary: Election worker Grace Brooks said the biggest complaint she heard from voters throughout the day was that Sitka’s new super-precinct had no cookies.

Unlike municipal elections, the results of statewide voting in Sitka go straight to the state’s Division of Elections.

Polls remain open in Sitka until 8 PM tonight. All voting takes place in Harrigan Centennial Hall.

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