Take elections seriously and vote next month

Alaskans in less than five weeks will elect the state’s first new member of the U.S. House in almost 50 years. Literally, this could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to choose who will represent the state as its lone member in the chamber.

Voters on Aug. 16 will choose from three candidates to fill the unexpired term of the late U.S. Rep. Don Young. On that same day, Alaskans will cast ballots in a primary election to decide which of 22 candidates will advance to the November general election for a chance to win the seat for a full two-year term.

It’s important that people vote — something Wrangell has not excelled at in recent years.

Back in 2012, more than 48% of registered Wrangell voters cast ballots in the state general election. “More than” because that number only counts voters who cast ballots in person on election day. It does not include people who voted early or absentee.

The number has been in steady and steep decline since then: 46% in 2014, 44% in 2016, 38.5% in 2018, and 37% in 2020.

Those are not the numbers of a strong democracy. They are an embarrassment, and there are a lot of reasons to reverse that trend this year, most importantly to show people, especially young people, that voting is important. With all the false claims, accusations, shouting, conspiracy theories, lawsuits and TV appearances alleging — without proof — that Joe Biden and his supporters stole the 2020 presidential election, who could blame a young voter for staying home and thumbing through social media rather than checking a circle on a ballot.

Another reason to vote is the stark difference between the candidates to represent Alaska in Congress. Former Gov. Sarah Palin is the loudest and fastest with the insults; Nick Begich III is the most politically conservative in the traditional sense before Donald Trump took hold of the Republican party; and former Bethel state legislator Mary Peltola is a truly moderate Democrat in a state where Democrats prefer the “moderate” label instead of “liberal.”

Though registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats in Wrangell almost 4-to-1 — 543 to 148, as of the state’s latest tally — the overwhelming number of registered voters in town are nonpartisan or undeclared, 1,170. The numbers are similar statewide. Those voters, without allegiance to any political party, will determine the winner on Aug. 16 and again in November.

The deadline to register to vote in the August election is Sunday. Residents can go online to register at voterregistration@alaska.gov. Absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than Aug. 16, the day that polls will be open across Alaska, including at Wrangell’s Nolan Center.

Put the dates on your calendar — either paper or digital — and make a choice on who will serve Alaska in the U.S. House. Failing to vote is giving up on democracy, and that is a sad commentary on the country and our community.

-- Wrangell Sentinel


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