The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner called voter turnout during Tuesday’s Primary Election “abysmal.”
But it might not be that bad.
The number of voters for the Alaska Primary bulked up since the last statewide election, going from 515,714 in the 2016 primary to: 567,403 this month.
And while the number of ballots cast in 2016 was 88,817, this year 103,714 ballots were cast. The turnout was 17.2 percent in 2016, but was 18.3 percent this year.
What are we to make of an additional 51,689 people who magically appeared as registered voters over the course of two years, even while the state’s population has contracted by several thousand?
The answer is the automatic registration of voters with the Permanent Fund dividend application. This occurred after voters in November, 2016, passed an initiative that requires Permanent Fund dividend applicants to be automatically registered as voters, if they are 18 years or older.
Here’s the clue: The number of “undeclared voters” increased by more than 49,000 in just one year. Those are voters who were assigned by the Division of Elections to the big U category because they were being automatically enrolled with the Division of Elections.
In reality, the turnout was likely better than it looks, because the automatic voter registration has registered people who are not eligible to vote or who have no intention of doing so. They are phantom voters, and they also represent votes that will be easier to defraud, because they are not engaged in the public process.
The real turnout is probably around 22 percent, if the artificially inflated voter base is backed out of the calculation.
While there are 567,403 people registered to vote in the state, according to the U.S. Census, there are only about 555,000 Alaskans over the age of 18.