Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at kcapps@newsminer.com, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

Denali Borough office prepares ballots for mailing

Everyone pitches in at the Denali Borough office to prepare ballots for mailing. This is the second year every registered voter gets a ballot by mail. Kris Capps/News-Miner

The Denali Borough started something new on election day two years ago: mailing election ballots to registered voters. That effort may have increased voting this year by as much as 10%.

The final Nov. 5 election results will be finalized today at a special canvas meeting of local election officials. There are still more than 242 mail-in ballots that need to be verified and counted. Mail-in ballots had to be postmarked by Nov. 5, election day in order to be counted.

“By my calculations, taking into account that this was an ‘off’ year, meaning there was no state/federal ballot, the average participation rate in an off year is about 20%,” said borough clerk Amber Renshaw. “The participation rate is significantly higher when there is also a state/federal ballot.”

She predicted that the voting participation rate this year might hover around 31% or 32% by the time all the ballots are counted.

“So the answer is yes, we had about a 10% increase in voter participation for an off year election,” she said. “The question is, did we see an increase in participation because of the mail ballot or were people more engaged because of the tax propositions? Time will tell.”

Regardless, she said, the borough is happy to see voters using the new system. Voters can also still vote early in person at the borough office or in person at the polls on election day.

If the trend from election day voting continues, two tax proposals may pass — one sets a 5% tax on alcohol and marijuana sales and the second measure raises the accommodation tax by .5% to a total of 7.5%.

The Denali Borough Assembly meets Wednesday night in Anderson and will swear in new assembly members. Unless totals drastically change with the counting of mail-in ballots, those new assembly members will be Lisa Miner of Healy and Jeff Stenger, who was a write-in candidate for the northern portion of the borough. The assembly meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday night at Anderson School in the city of Anderson.

Anyone can examine the history of voting participation, which is listed on the Denali Borough website. It shows how many votes were cast every election since that first election in 1990. That 1990 election lists the biggest turnout to date of 56%.

The presidential elections in 2004 and 2008 also showed high turnout at 53% and 50%. But the next two presidential elections, voting turnout dropped to 45% in 2012 and 43% in 2016.

All this information is available on the borough website under the government/borough election tab: bit.ly/2qPdCVO.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.