MUST READ ALASKA VOTERS – GET YOUR BALLOTS IN
The first mail-in election in Anchorage is a nail biter for candidates, but voters have not shown up in droves, indicating little excitement so far.
Some interviewed by Must Read Alaska report they are dragging their feet because there are too many propositions on the ballot, and they feel overwhelmed.
With only 26,000 ballots received as of Monday, it could be one of the lowest turnout elections in recent memory. Some 198,000 ballots were mailed out on March 13, leaving 172,000 ballots still outstanding.
To compare, turnout for the mayoral election in 2015 was 54,275 for the first round, and 70,516 for the runoff.
But a major push by liberal groups such as the Alaska Center for the Environment is scheduled for the next few days, with volunteers gathering at phone bank events to call known Democrat-leaning voters and urge them to get their ballots in.
Proposition 1 opponents, which include the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, are also banging on doors to get ballots in from voters who favor gender-neutral public restrooms.
These groups are receiving voter identification lists from the Municipal Election Office each day that are updated with the new ballots received. They know who has voted and who is still sitting on their ballots.
They marry the information up with their “known Democrat” data, and then jump on the phone to call the voters they like.
Conservative groups can use the same tactic, but appear to be outnumbered in volunteers and strategy. Local elections in Alaska are heavily dominated by liberals, as Anchorage’s recent record shows.
THESE PEOPLE HAVE CAST THEIR BALLOTS
A review of the most recent voting list of 26,000 who cast ballots as of March 26 shows that:
- Ethan Berkowitz voted but Alice Rogoff has not.
- Mark Begich and Tom Begich voted. So has Nick, “the Republican Begich.”
- Tony and Susan Knowles voted.
- Former Mayor Rick Mystrom voted.
- Suzanne Downing voted, while radio talk show host Dave Stieren has not (out of town).
THE BEGICH BACK STORY
With a low turnout, Must Read Alaska readers in Anchorage have an opportunity to influence the course of the election.
But several voters MRAK surveyed this morning — voters who had not returned their ballots — were unsure about Prop. 10, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’ plan to sell ML&P to Chugach Electric.
The plan to sell the city’s utility was put in place by former Mayor Mark Begich and current Mayor Berkowitz, and requires a change to the city charter, so that only 51 percent of voters are needed to vote in the affirmative for the billion-dollar sale to be approved. This key feature of Prop 10 is not disclosed on the ballot.
This is classic Mark Begich, the mayor who famously proposed a change to the city charter when he was running for reelection in 2003 as mayor, so that he would only have to get 45 percent of the vote in what was a three-way race between himself, Rick Mystrom, and George Wuerch.
That year, Begich won by just 18 votes, which was 45.03 percent, when voters approved that charter change during the same election.
Trickiness pays off. Had voters not approved the charter change, there would have been a runoff between Begich and Wuerch, and Wuerch would have picked up the Mystrom votes for a possible win.
THE BEGICH PLAYBOOK AT WORK AGAIN
It’s a strategy that worked for Begich, and he is using it again, as he works his contract with Chugach Electric to pull off a deal that has had little public scrutiny.
Proposition 10 asks voters to once again change the city charter so that only 51 percent of the vote is needed, rather than 60 percent. Oddly, nowhere in the proposition language does it inform voters that they are lowering the threshold from 60 to 51 percent. That little detail is buried in the underlying ordinance but not disclosed on the ballot. Trickiness may pay off yet again.
Begich is said to be making $12,000 a month on his lucrative Chugach Electric contract, and it will take years for the deal to be completed. His contract could be worth high six figures by the time the sale is actually completed.
Must Read Alaska reader Ray Kreig wondered aloud why the media has been so meek in its coverage of the sale of ML&P to Chugach Electric.
“A number of us former Chugach Electric board officers and directors are really puzzled as to why the Anchorage media have a complete news blackout regarding the views of very informed electric utility voices for a ‘No vote on Prop 10,'” he said.
Those with electric utility experience opposed to Prop. 10 include three former Chugach Electric board chairs/presidents, including Ray Kreig, two former Chugach Electric board officers, one former Chugach Electric board director, recently resigned ML&P Commission Chair Judy Brady, and former RCA Commissioner Dave Harbour. Former Mayor Dan Sullivan has also come out in opposition to the sale.
Mayoral candidate Rebecca Logan has raised concerns about the transaction.
The question may come up today at 4 pm, when Rebecca Logan is set to debate Ethan Berkowitz on the Dave Stieren Show, in a format that allows them to ask each other questions. Only Logan has confirmed her attendance.
Wonder how Must Read Alaska’s Suzanne Downing voted? Shoot a question to firstname.lastname@example.org