Early voting in the Chugiak-Eagle River area has more than doubled the turn-out in the August primary as poll workers at the area’s only local early voting station report constant activity hour by hour.
On Mon., Nov. 7, it was standing room only upstairs at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center as the line to vote stood two deep and snaked through the center’s hallway. Monday night’s voters crowded the stairwell until staff directed the line to the upstairs hallway where first-time voters to veteran voters leaned against the hallway wall waiting their turn to fill out their registration to request the ballot for their home district.
Election workers pounded the table’s to celebrate first-time voters and welcomed veteran voters back to the booth.
As of Nov. 3, more than 600 people had voted at the station located upstairs at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center. Approximately 300 voted back in August for the primary.
The early voting station in Chugiak opened on Oct. 31 and station workers told The ECHO News that the line to vote extended out the door most of the day.
“They are coming out to vote,” Jean Sondrud said. “It is more than I have seen in awhile.”
Sondrud, an election worker, has worked the early voting station for the past five years.
“There is something in the air,” she said in between checking in voters. “People are really willing to vote for this election. They want to cast their ballot and have their say. I think everyone is looking for some kind of change.”
For Megan Davis, age 21 and a first-time voter in a presidential election, an errand to pick up an absentee ballot for her grandmother turned in to the opportunity to vote early.
But like many voters who say they aren’t 100 percent behind either of the mainstream presidential candidates – Hillary Clinton, the Democrat, and Donald Trump, the Republican – Davis was still mulling over the decision she would make in the booth as she signed in with the election workers at the registration table.
“This is not very reassuring to me that this is my first presidential vote,” Davis said. “I believe it is important that I vote, but I am not 100 percent confident with either candidate.”
National predictions that voters disgusted with the negativity of the 2016 presidential election would stay away from the polls are being disproved as reports from across the country indicate an increase in early voting even when compared against the 2012 election.
That doesn’t surprise Lourdes Rivera, an Eagle River mom and military veteran.
“I think people will turn out to vote simple because they are curious about this election and they want to be part of history,” Rivera said.
Julie Husmann, the region two elections supervisor in Anchorage for state elections, echoes Rivera’s thoughts.
“We are way up in numbers in terms of early turnout,” Husmann said when The ECHO News spoke with her one week before the election. “At four days in to early voting, across the state we were at 11,000. Compare that against the same time period in 2012 when we had approximately 4,700 early voters and you can see that is quite a difference.”
On Mon., Nov. 7, the state Division of Elections reported that 31,533 registered Alaskan voters had taken advantage of early voting. That number is a big jump compared to the 2014 election in which 22,200 registered Alaskan voters cast their ballot early and in the 2012 presidential election when only 19,987 Alaskans voted early.
Husmann said election day polling stations run by the state are prepared in terms of the number of ballots on hand for an 85 to 90 percent registered voter turn-out.
“People are voting,” she said. “No doubt about it.”