In a little more than a month, area voters have the opportunity to make some decisions.
Sure, that’s not exactly a news flash that we get to vote.
Trouble is, far too many of us don’t bother to do so.
That bothers me.
I’m not trying to tell you what to think, but honestly, it should bother you as well.
Well, that is if you are an American; if you know anyone that has served in this nation’s Armed Forces and if you value freedom.
Um, and especially if you live here in the Chugiak-Eagle River area – which there is a darn good chance you do since you are reading this column about this area – it ought to give you a bit of shock and awe to contemplate just how few registered voters actually go to the polls.
Yes, low voter turnout occurs even here. It happens right here in this lovely hamlet; in this place that is a bedroom community to a major military installation. Happens right here in a place that has strong economic ties to the presence of the military. Happens right here where a lot of active duty and veterans reside.
I am not pointing fingers.
But I am asking why a large portion of us don’t get our hind ends to the polls and participate in the most basic of civic exercises; a basic right that others around the world are willing to fight for, willing to walk miles and miles to do and often after depositing their ballot, leave with tears in their eyes because they know doing so equals a right so many others don’t have.
I hear you already: But Amy, we had record turnout last November for the presidential election.
Yes, indeed we did. Record turnout in the 40 percentiles of registered voters.
Yippee people. That means that somewhere between 55 and 60 percent of the people who took the few minutes required to register to vote did not bother to then go vote.
That is still more than half of registered voters that don’t bother.
Doesn’t voting matter anymore? Have we become so complacent; so comfortable here in America that we can justify not participating?
Is the political experience just too dull?
While I truly enjoy being a bit off the grid here in Alaska removed from some of the drama of the Lower 48, that does not mean that casting my vote in any election is a duty I shouldn’t complete. While I do feel like much of what happens in Washington, D.C., may not impact my life directly moment-by-moment, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t exercise my right to vote and at least chip in on the American experience.
This is going to read a bit melodramatic, granted, but oh well, hang in here with me folks: Far too many soldiers have died on battlefields, far too many are regularly at duty away from their families and far more sacrifice has been made than the slight time inconvenience I may experience waiting in line to vote. Actually, in November, I super enjoyed being in line at the senior center for early voting. It was exciting and I got to say hi to several folks I hadn’t seen for some time. Yes, I am a bit of a social butterfly, but hey, shouldn’t getting to vote be a party anyway?
So serious time: Am I being too dramatic about this? No, I don’t think so. Try telling a veteran suffering from PTSD or a widow raising children on her own that it is just too much of a hassle to get your butt to a conveniently located polling station with ample parking and no threats of being shot at by insurgents or rebels.
My paternal grandparents brought a weary family from war-torn Holland in 1947 to the United States after being sponsored by a religious organization. My grandfather, my grandmother and my father – only seven years of age at the time – and my father’s siblings had a front row seat to witness the ravage and savagery of Adolf Hitler’s terror. The train tracks that transported Jewish people to camps traveled less than a football field’s distance from their home. My grandfather knew what it meant to have all rights taken away. Perhaps that is why voting in America was so sacred to him. It was important enough to him that as a child before I attended elementary school, I remember my parents voting and then meeting grandpa and the other members of the family who voted in different districts at a local restaurant for breakfast to talk politics and thank God that they could vote.
Yes, it made an impression on me. That impression continued to grow through my childhood and teen years and it was with great anticipation that I voted for the first time at age 18. I still remember the color on the walls in the room where I went to do so. Kind of a washed out puke white, but the red, white and blue of the voting booth was as patriotic as ever. I married a military man and my insistence on voting increased.
I’ve seen the impact voting has as each of my children voted for the first time at age 18. Much to their chagrin, I captured each moment of it from them signing in, to them taking their ballot, to getting in the voting booth, to coming out of the voting booth, to turning in their ballot, to getting their “I voted” sticker and even took their photos with the polling place workers. Yep, a little overkill for sure, but perhaps in 100 years when their grandchildren look back through the boxes of family photos, they will see a legacy that included voting. And they will allow know the stories of great Grandma Amy being a bit of dingbat are truth – it’s okay: I even brought my puppy to the Republican Presidential Preference Poll last year at the Lions Club. Got great pictures of Miss Willie licking Amy Demboski and Dan Kendall. See voting can be fun!
Despite my own happy memories of voting, I remain rather appalled at the low local voter turnout.
Thus, in keeping with the ECHO News mantra that we are here for our community, we are taking some action to help voters become better informed about what choices they are asked to make on the Anchorage April 4 ballot.
On March 20 staring at 6:30 p.m. at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center, the ECHO News sponsors round two of our “Get All Sides” candidate forum. This one is the “Municipal Edition 2017.” In alphabetical order, the four candidates for Anchorage Assembly for our local seat being vacated by the terming out of Bill Starr – John Brassell, Patrick Donnelly, Fred Dyson and Gretchen Wehmhoff – have been invited to participate in a candidate debate. The Anchorage School District has also accepted attendance to present its school bond proposal. I still seek a representative from the Municipality to discuss its bonds.
Please show up. Please force the fire marshal to turn people away from this event. Please understand that your informed vote matters.
Until then, this week’s edition is packed full of great stories about your local area.
From our front cover telling the story of a phenomenal photographer who has made the Eagle River Nature Center his home to winter driving tips by Melinda Munson to more discussion about Alzheimer’s disease from Sara Kennedy to the history of the establishment of Chugiak High School from Lee Jordan, this edition packs a variety punch. We have Rep. Dan Saddler discussing studded tires, local Girl Scouts take a virtual trip around the world for World Thinking Day, Frank Baker’s guidance on yet another adventure in our backyard that is Alaska’s wilderness and we take a closer look at what motivates Jack Walters, the Chugiak High School goalie who led the Cook Inlet Conference in a variety of stats that prove a goalie’s worth. And of course, Dan Shepard brings us exciting photos from local high school sports.
Enjoy the read!