Voter turnout was roughly 1, 777, 20 votes higher than last year and over 300 votes higher than the year before. But that still represents only 25% of Sitka’s population of registered voters. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

If you’re worried about the state of democracy in Sitka, we have some good news for you. Though voting got off to a slow start on Election Day, the overall turnout was a bit higher than last year, though not by much. KCAW’s Emily Kwong spoke with City Clerk Sara Peterson, who dug up some new data on how this election measures up to year’s past.

Downloadable audio.

Over 1,700 Sitkans voted on Election Day. As Sara Peterson and I waited in the fire hall for results, we began to wonder what that meant. Was that number high or low compared to municipal elections in year’s past? Turns out, it’s both. The last municipal election was in 2013. And the turnout?

“1,332 voters,” said Peterson. “And that was for an assembly race and one proposition.”

And 2014? “1,757 voters. And that was for mayor, assembly races, and school board as well,” said Peterson. “It’s looking like our turnout this year is going to be just a tad bit higher than last year’s. So that’s great news because it did start off slow yesterday.”

So slow that Peterson was a bit worried in the beginning, but the tides turned in the afternoon. I asked Peterson what she thinks ultimately brought people to the polls.

“[I think] getting the word out and advertising. Certainly with our polling location changes this year, people received polling locations in the mail from the state, as a reminder that the election was just around the corner.”

So all in all, turnout was pretty good. But it’s a far cry compared to year’s past. 2012 saw 2482 ballots, in a race for Assembly and School Board. 2010 saw 3051 ballots. That year, 8 propositions were on the ballot, along with a race for Mayor and Assembly.

Below is the voter turnout history from 2010-2014, courtesy of municipal clerk Sara Peterson. She cautions that the percentages are not fully accurate, due to errors in the data tracking registered voters. 

YearBallots received% of registered votersBallot races + propositions
2010305144.40%Mayor/Assembly race and 8 proposition
2011210235%Assembly/School Board race 1 proposition
2012248236.10%Mayor/Assembly races
2013133219.40%Assembly race and 1 proposition
2014175725.40%Mayor/Assembly/School Board races

This is Peterson’s first election as Sitka’s municipal clerk. She says that while it’s hard to nail down the science of voter enthusiasm, the fate of voter turnout might have been decided months ago when ordinary citizens decided to run in the first place.

Peterson said, “We had quite a few people on the ballot this year. There was a lot of campaigning and so I think people were aware of the choices that they had and wanted to get out and vote.”