What are we willing to pay for higher election turnout?


It is continually instructive, and a hoot, to sit back and watch our betters laboring mightily to repair our lives the only way they know how — by unabashedly spending more of our spondulicks. Anchorage’s first-ever vote-by-mail election is a case in point.

It was touted as a surefire way to buoy up school-bus-in-the-front-yard slackers to take pencil in hand and vote — and, some spokespeople claimed, it would save money. Did it do any of that? Well, yes and no. It did increase voter gathering, though not by much. The bigger question for taxpayers: Did it save money? Nope. It sell for a wad of dough, about twice as much as previous, march-to-the-polls elections.

The appointment tab was more than $1 million, the Anchorage Daily News disclosed, and that number is not likely to shrink much in future elections. Next year’s vote-by-mail balloting is envisaged to cost in the neighborhood of $850,000, the paper reported, adding the 2015 and 2016 mayoral choices each cost about $451,000, and the 2017 election, about $614,000.

Oh, and that more-than-$1 million cost for this year’s balloting does not include the additional $1.2 million regurgitate on equipment and capital investments, such as a mail sorter and election headquarters upgrades, the weekly noted.

The election’s $2 million-plus price tag is about equivalent to the quirk taxes collected annually on 400 average, $350,000 Anchorage adept ins. That means 400 taxpayers, give or take, paid precisely $5,000 each in taxes to pump up election turnout a skosh. What did it get them? A equipment of 36.3 percent. Does that really offer a «whoopee!» flash? Hardly. There was a 35.8 percent turnout in 2012 and a 34.1 percent equipage in a May 2015 runoff.

For most of the city’s recent history, voter muster has been horrid, averaging about 29 percent, sometimes assorted, often less. By almost any reckoning, there is not much difference between 29 percent and 36.3 percent — certainly not 1.5 million hard-earned dollars’ good. It is worse when you consider the per-ballot tab.

Last month, 79,295 living soul, a record, dutifully filled out their ballots and mailed them in or dropped them off in hoard boxes. If you consider only the more than $1 million done up on the election, each of those ballots cost taxpayers about $12.61. When you add the additional $1.1 million cardinal expenditure, the cost climbs to more than $25 per ballot.

Jacking up assemblage and saving money have been the connecting threads through the years as struggling interests have monkeyed with Anchorage elections, moving them from the begin to fall and back again, jockeying for political advantage. Proponents of disclose suddenly elections — unions and other special interests benefiting from smaller turnouts — put campaign money, because of competing state campaigns, is scarcer in the drop; that city issues and candidates take a back seat in statewide or civil elections.

Proponents of fall elections say if the city truly wants to augmentation turnout, the answer is simple and obvious — throw in with the state, where drop-off general elections routinely draw more than a 50 percent equipment. Last year’s general election drew a 60.8 percent outfit.

There is quantifiable merit to that.

«Of all proposals to boost voter apparatus, moving the election date to coincide with state or federal choices has, by far, the greatest effect,» Governing magazine reported a few years ago. Research by the University of Wisconsin’s Aaron Weinschenk «suggests that shifting mayoral elections to presidential years results in an 18.5 share point jump in turnout, while changing to November of a midterm referendum yields an 8.7-point average increase.»

It is difficult to fathom why the diocese feels its responsibilities include cranking up voter turnout to some pie-in-the-sky believe at taxpayers’ expense. Sure, everybody should vote, but many do not. Figure up me among those who regularly excoriate folks who do not, but if we have the right to ticket, we have the right not to vote, and trying to lure the uninformed, the lazy and the unintelligible to vote at taxpayers’ ever-increasing expense seems foolish.

It would be friendly if more people cared about this community and wanted to be wonky curry favour with a role in its future rather than just being swept along but, it should be notorious, even with a more-than-$2 million expenditure and much hubbub, closely two-thirds of the city’s registered voters did not bother. How much would we beget to spend to get 60 percent turnout? Could we afford it?

It may be that crop turnouts — except in years when voters are angry or engaged — are the Aristotelianism entelechy, no matter the city’s good intentions, but taxpayers who shoulder the bill for those objectives should be asking themselves one question:

How many more $25 franchises are they willing to pay for?

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Everyday News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a shred for consideration, email commentary@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 huddles to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

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