A defeat for democracy

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 20:00

We’re used to hearing about bungled elections in far-off parts of the world, where fledgling and struggling democracies sometimes fail to carry out elections in a smooth and transparent manner. Often, we shake our heads at the backward nature of these places, and pat ourselves on the back for having a trusted and time-honored tradition of orderly elections.

Not this time. Instead, we’re the ones who look foolish.

On Tuesday, huge crowds of Anchorage voters turned out to cast their votes in an election that proved to be anything but orderly. With a mayoral race and a controversial ballot proposition on the ballot, this should have been expected. Anyone who had listened to the radio or watched television in recent weeks could have told you that this year’s election was garnering more interest than most. Knowing this, municipal officials should have stocked each polling place with more than enough ballots to keep up with demand.

Yet when some voters showed up at the polls, they found that some polling stations had run out of ballots.


Although the municipality did its best to ferry extra ballots out to polling places that ran low, the snafu led to reports of chaos, as rightfully angry voters wondered why they were unable to cast their votes.

By most accounts, irate voters were in the minority, and most folks waited patiently for new ballots to arrive. Some people had to wait in line after the 8 p.m. close to cast their ballots, and for their patience they should be commended.

But not everyone had time to wait for the municipality to get its act together, and it’s a near certainty that some people who showed up to vote never got to cast their ballot.

Far too often, we hear about voter apathy eroding our democratic values and traditions. But this time, instead of people deciding to sit on their hands and let others decide the issues for them, huge numbers of Anchorage voters went out and tried to exercise that which is our most cherished and sacred right — a right that’s the very foundation of this nation and all it stands for.

The fact that some people were not able to cast their votes is a fundamental failure of our municipality, and an investigation into why election officials were not prepared for the unexpected turnout needs to be conducted immediately.

Unless the election night chaos throws the results of Tuesday’s vote into doubt, it appears Mayor Dan Sullivan has won another term as head of this municipality. It also looks like he’s got some new business to attend to.

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