‘I vote every time:’ southern Kenai Peninsula voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s municipal elections
Hundreds on the southern Kenai Peninsula showed up to the polls on Tuesday to cast their votes for new city council and borough representatives, on top of a slate of ballot propositions.
Early results are showing promising leads for incumbents across elections, as well as support for a bond package that would finance infrastructure improvements at Homer High and other schools. But canvas boards still have to count hundreds of absentee ballots before they finalize the results of the election, next week.
In Homer, unofficial results show incumbent Mayor Ken Castner, who ran unopposed, reelected to another two-year term. He’s been mayor of the city since 2018.
Incumbents Jason Davis and Storm Hansen are poised to keep their seats on the Homer City Council, each earning more than 30% of the votes for the two open seats.
On election day, while voters trickled into Homer City Hall and the Homer Methodist Church to cast their ballots between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., poll workers and city staff said they were gearing up for a long day ahead.
“It started at about 5:45 this morning when we got to City Hall,” Homer City Clerk Melissa Jacobsen said. “The election workers started showing up at 6 a.m. to get their polling places set up, get their ballots organized, everything ready for the voters to come in and start voting at 7 a.m.”
Jacobsen said there was a steady stream of voters until polls closed at 8 p.m. And then the counting started.
She said voter turnout to the city’s two voting locations was on par with past municipal elections. About 25% of registered city voters cast their ballots.
“We had a pretty good turnout,” Jacobsen said. “We had 467 people vote absentee this year. We had 865 regular voters. [We’re] still waiting on questioned ballots and special needs ballots.”
But borough wide, voter turnout was at around 11.2%, with 5,928 of the borough’s 53,014 voters casting ballots in local races. In 2021, voter turnout in the borough hovered around 12 percent.
Jacobsen said turnout is generally higher for state and federal elections, or when there are big items on the ballot.
Christine Anderson was one of Homer’s 1,332 voters this election. She rode her bicycle to the polls at City Hall despite the wet, drizzling conditions Tuesday.
She said when choosing her candidates for Homer City Council, she considered accessibility. Walking and bikeability have been hot topics at recent council meetings.
“I live up towards the hospital,” Anderson said. “I'm super excited to see this new sidewalk going in, and the new drainage. I’m hoping it all works. Better sidewalks are really important to me.”
For Jeanette Shafer, who has lived in Anchor Point for nearly two decades and has three kids at the local school, showing up is important no matter what’s on the ballot.
“Whatever your opinions or wishes are, you have the chance, not that often, to voice your opinion,” she said. “And voting is one way of getting your opinion heard. I vote every time.”
Shafer said she struggled with how to vote on Prop. 1 on the borough ballot, which put the question of apportionment to voters following the 2020 Census.
So far, Kenai Peninsula voters seem to be leaning toward keeping the nine-district plan for borough assembly and school board. Early results show the nine-member plan pulling ahead with 78% of the votes.
Homer voter Daniel Bunker said he struggled with Prop. 2, which would approve a $65.5 million bond for deferred maintenance projects in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. The project will result in an estimated tax increase for borough residents of about $45 per every $100,000 of property value.
“I'm in support of that, even though it's a hit financially,” Bunker said. “I think it's really important to take care of our schools and our infrastructure for our kids.”
Preliminary results show voters are leaning with Bunker toward “Yes” on Prop. 2. That plan has about 57.1% of the vote, so far.
Absentee, questioned and special needs ballots in Homer’s election will get reviewed and counted by the canvas board on Friday at 1 p.m. at City Hall. Results will then go to the city council for adoption on Monday.
The borough will certify election results on Tuesday, Oct. 11.