Alaskans will go to the polls today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to elect local government representatives, including school board members. Fairbanks-area voters also will consider two controversial ballot propositions, one to outlaw marijuana businesses in the city or the borough, and another that asks city voters to allow higher property taxes to fill a budget gap left by state funding cuts.
Turnout in the Fairbanks North Star Borough for off-year local elections like today’s often barely breaks into double digits. But this year could be different, if turnout at the polls is anything like the brisk pace of requests for early-voting and absentee ballots that both the Borough and City Clerk’s offices have been dealing with lately.
“We’re definitely up, says Borough Clerk Nanci Ashford-Bingham. “We’re having a steady, steady turnout in our office and ... the City Clerk’s office downtown as well.”
Ashford-Bingham says her staff has been processing requests for early and absentee ballots at a brisk pace over the past month.
“We’ve already processed 1,974,” she said, “and that’s is up quite bit from last year.”
Ashford-Bingham says the borough tallied less than half that amount of early- and absentee ballots for the 2016 local election, after they’d been verified. And this year’s requests so far also exceeds the 2015 total, when among other things voters elected a borough mayor and rejected a controversial air-quality ballot measure.
“We processed 1,492 in 2015,” she said.
This year’s ballot lists a similarly controversial measure for voters in Fairbanks and unincorporated borough areas – a proposition that asks voters to outlaw marijuana-related businesses.
Borough voters also will elect two new Assembly members and fill a third seat with either the incumbent or his challenger. They also select a new school board member and consider re-electing a couple of incumbents. And they’ll select a new member for the Interior Gas Utility board.
Fairbanks voters will either return incumbents or write-in candidates for two uncontested City Council seats.
They’ll also consider a ballot measure that asks permission to increase city property taxes to raise enough money to fill the gap created by cuts in state revenue-sharing. The shortfall for the coming fiscal year is now estimated at $1.7 million.
Also today, North Pole voters will fill two City Council seats. And Delta Junction voters will consider electing four councilmembers.
Voters in Delta and other communities in the unorganized borough also will vote for school board candidates for their respective Regional Educational Attendance Areas.
Ashford-Bingham says the clerk’s office will be regularly posting election results to its web page after polls close at 8 p.m., and will post unofficial vote totals when all 40 borough precincts have submitted their ballots later tonight.
Editor's note: Ashford-Bingham says city and borough residents who’ve moved recently and haven’t yet re-registered with their new address may yet still be able to vote for or against the city and nonareawide borough ballot measures to ban commercial marijuana by casting a questioned ballot at either a city or borough polling place. She says voters with those and other questions should contact the Borough Clerk's office, at 459-1401, or the Fairbanks City Clerk’s office, 459-6072, or North Pole City Clerk, at 488-8583.