Elections for the Anchorage Assembly, municipal positions and school board seats are all small but impactful decisions that have a tangible impact on the everyday lives of voters. The candidate knocking on your door and asking for your vote may soon be representing you on the Assembly. The small businessman holding campaign fundraisers may soon be your mayor. The former schoolteacher waving signs on a street corner may soon be a member of the Anchorage School Board, making decisions that will impact your child’s education – for better, or for worse.
However, it’s often difficult for us to see the importance of local elections, and voter turnout reflects this. In 2018, just 20% of Alaskans showed up to vote in municipal elections, and in 2016, it was even less, at 17%. Compare this to the 66% national voter turnout for the 2020 presidential election, and the divide is clear – voters simply don’t show up for local elections. In an age of pandemics, polarization and partisanship, it seems we’ve swapped ‘voter turnout’ for ‘voter burnout.’
No one’s to blame for this. Voting is, simply put, a chore. In addition to the act of filling out your ballot, voters often have to research candidates and decide who aligns most closely with their personal values. And even before that, there’s Assembly meetings to watch, community council meetings to attend and local news to watch, in order to stay informed. Frankly, it can feel like a lot of work for a local position that might seem unimportant.
But don’t let that discourage you! Voting is one of the most meaningful ways we have to affect the way our government is run. On the state and local levels, these positions really and truly matter, so it’s important that voters remain vigilant and aware of who is representing them in their community. Especially now, in a time of so much internal turmoil and strife in Alaskan politics, voter engagement and involvement is crucial to keep our government effective, efficient and responsive to the needs of its citizens.
The only way this can happen is for voters to fill out their local ballots. No matter have small of a position, from Assembly member to local judge, the fact it can have on Alaskan politics is astronomical. If you want your city to be run by the right people, your interests to be met by the most responsive officials, and your children to receive the best education possible, then its absolutely crucial that you vote in local elections.
Alaskans are tough, independent and intelligent. Our state is unlike any other in the union, and as such, our politicians need to be willing to serve Alaskans with care, respect and responsibility. The only way this can happen, however, is if voters remain informed and involved, to make sure that our elected officials are Alaska’s best and brightest. So, prior to April 6, remember to check those boxes, fill out those ballots and help make Alaska a better place for everyone.
Sami Graham is a born-and-raised Alaskan, as well as a mom, grandma and retired public school and private school principal. She is a candidate for Anchorage School District School Board, seat E.