Alaska’s population decreased by 3,831 people from July 2019 to July 2020, based on population estimates released by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development last week.
It is the fourth straight year of decline for the state’s population, which peaked at 740,637 in July 2016 and was down to 728,903 as of July 2020.
It’s 0.5 percent year over year, and 11,734 fewer Alaskans in four years, roughly the the population of the City of Wasilla, which is Alaska’s sixth largest city.
At the same time, the Division of Elections reports that 599,704 people are registered to vote in Alaska, which is over 18,000 more than were registered the year prior.
Voter registrations typically fluctuate but have never before reached so close to 600,000. The voter registration total was 581,601 just one year ago.
On the surface, it’s an apparent gain of more than 18,000 voters in one year. Even when the state was at its height of population in 2016, there were no more than 530,653 voters (December, 2016 count).
There’s at least one reason: Voters are being added due to the automatic Permanent Fund dividend application process and it takes years to legally purge people from the voter rolls, due to state law. Voters approved the automatic voter registration in 2016 through Ballot Measure 1.
Every spring, the Division of Elections purges the voter rolls, publishing the pre-purge and the post-purge numbers on its statistics page. That will happen again in February or March. But the voter rolls just keep growing, even while population shrinks. The purging is not able to keep up; federal law governs how voters may be purged.
Comparing Division of Elections data to Department of Labor data, 84 percent of the Anchorage municipality residents are now registered to vote. The remainder, presumably, are children. According to the Census Bureau, 24 percent of Anchorage residents are under the age of 18.
The population loss in Alaska is due largely to net migration — in-migrants minus out-migrants, which accounted for a loss of 8,873 people from July 2019 to July 2020, the Department of Labor said.
That means fewer people are moving to Alaska, rather than that more are leaving. A decrease in births also contributed to the overall decline.
Alaska’s population from infancy to 64 years old declined 1 percent, while the 65-and-older group actually grew by 4 percent. The state’s oldest borough is Haines, at 48.6 years. The Kusilvak Census Area was youngest at 24.3.
Twenty-three of Alaska’s 30 boroughs and census areas lost population between 2019 and 2020, for a total of 76 percent of the boroughs and census areas losing population.
The Municipality of Anchorage lost the most (-3,517).
Fairbanks, with its expanding military population, grew the most, gaining 1,064 people, followed the Matanuska-Susitna Borough (523).
Counts from the 2020 Census have not been released and are not part of these estimates, the department noted.
Complete estimates for the state, boroughs/census areas, cities and census-designated places are available here.