Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 4:52 PM on Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Homer News Editorial
    What do results of Tuesday's vote mean?

In the days following an election, it's always entertaining to try to figure out why certain candidates won and others lost; why ballot measures passed or didn't.

Tuesday's primary election is no exception; the results provide plenty to chew on. Here are just a few thoughts.

The power of the incumbency: How much power an incumbent has really depends on the incumbent. That's why in Tuesday's primary some incumbents won and some were soundly defeated. If an incumbent has done a good job listening to his or her constituents, then the better the chances are he or she will get re-elected. If an incumbent is approachable, hard-working and good at staying in touch with constituent concerns, voters can forgive and forget that they don't agree on every issue. When an incumbent, however, is perceived as being arrogant and a know-it-all, he or she becomes immediately vulnerable.

Ballot initiatives: Ballot initiatives are not the best way to make laws, but they do give citizens a voice when they feel unheard by their elected officials. What does the sound thumping of Ballot Measure 2 mean? There are probably lots of lessons, including expect a "no" vote if a measure can't be explained simply. While we see nothing to motivate the Legislature to pass a coastal management program with the sound defeat of Ballot Measure 2, we hope someone will step up and get the job done. At least one interpretation of the defeat of Ballot Measure 2 is this: Voters said "no" because it was a complex initiative, not because they don't want a coastal management program. We still maintain that with more coastline than all the other states combined, Alaska should be leading the way in showing others what responsible coastal management looks like.

The power of money: The huge amount of money that went to work to defeat Ballot Measure 2 should concern all Alaskans. It begs the question: If the supporters of a coastal management plan would have had an equal amount to spend explaining their side, would the election results have been the same?

Voter apathy or something else: We're tired of blaming low voter turnout on apathetic citizens. Citizens are fairly easy to engage if something is relevant to their lives. But, for the most part, government and its inner workings don't pass the "who cares?" test for a vast majority of citizens. They don't really think Candidate A is a better choice than Candidate B — unless they've had some direct dealings with either A or B. Ballot measures read like so much legal mumbo-jumbo that it makes more sense to say "no" than to figure out what those measures would do or wouldn't do. Making people feel guilty because they have the privilege to vote but don't use it isn't the answer. That nebulous entity we call "government" should take more responsibility for low voter turnout by connecting with citizens in more meaningful ways. How best to do that? We need to chew on that a little more.

Thinking it through: If nothing else, Tuesday's election shows that no one can predict what will happen until after the numbers are in. And whether our candidates won or lost or our particular issues passed or failed, the beautiful thing about our system of government is that it still works. Imperfectly at times, perhaps, but it still works.