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Alaska Department of Fish and Game
– Vote Early, Vote Often!

The Mudflats / January 7, 2010
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I arrived at the School District Building not knowing quite what to expect.  Armed with Blackberry, camera and a plate of banana brownies I headed into the unknown.  Last year at the election meeting of the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, there were 65 people in attendance.  I hoped there would be more this year.  This group is designed to represent the diverse interests of the Anchorage area when it comes to Alaska’s fish and wildlife.  Many people hunt – some for sport, some for food, and some for subsistence use.  Some are Alaska Native people, some are not.  Some enjoy shooting wildlife only with a camera.  Others make a living from wildlife tours, fishing charters, or hunting guide services.  Some just like wildlife viewing on their own.  The relationship between Alaskan humans and animals is complicated, to put it mildly.  But we hope that this citizen group can represent this diversity and make reasonable recommendations to the board that reflect the many wishes and opinions of Anchorage area residents.

I pushed through the double doors and walked right into a wall of people packing the entryway.  A long line snaked its way around the corner to the room where the meeting would happen.  I was 35 minutes early.



As I walked along the line scanning the crowd for people I knew, I spotted many.  And for every one of them, there were many more people around them wearing camouflage jackets, baseball caps with gun logos, and people in t-shirts with the names of various conservative political groups.  There were definitely more than 65 people.


At the door, ballots were being handed out, and people were taking their seats.  I took a place in line and eventually made it to the front to collect my ballot.  It was pink and it had empty lines where you could write in the name of the candidates you were voting for.  I was directed to write my information on a piece of paper on a clipboard.  Name, address, phone number, email.  The people before me on the sheet had left some of the information out, not providing emails or phone numbers.  I wondered if this would somehow invalidate their votes.  I filled out my information and took a ballot.  There was no number on it.  And it said to fill out the form with up to 8 names and 1 student.

And then I sat and waited and waited and waited.  The line was even longer than it had been before, and they said they were waiting for everyone to get into the room before they began the meeting.  I knew there was no way the room would hold nearly that many people, and someone told me that there was a PA system they could use to broadcast the statements by the candidates into the hallway.  I was a bit skeptical this would be a workable plan.  I felt sure that the meeting would be cancelled and rescheduled in a larger venue.  I knew it was going to be contentious, and there was no way they expected this many people to show up.


I took another stroll down the line.  A conservative group was handing out papers with a list of the people NOT to vote for.  Someone asked me if I’d like to sign a petition to put a measure on the ballot which would require parental notification for any girl under the age of 18 to have an abortion.

(insert harp music here…everything goes a little blurry….) I saw a friend of mine burst in the door out of breath.  “Weren’t you way ahead of me before?”  I asked.  “Yes, I was,” he said.  “Did you notice that the ballots weren’t numbered?”  Yes, I had noticed that.  “Did anyone ask you for ID?”  Nope.  Nobody asked me for ID.  Then he went on to explain that seeing the number of hunters that had been called out by various groups to stack the board with that particular interest above the others, he’d been frustrated.  He thought at first that he’d run home real quick and grab the three visiting out-of-state guests, and bring them over to stand in line with him again, knowing they’d be given ballots.  But then, he said, he’d had “a wonderful awful idea,” quoting the Grinch in the Dr. Seuss book.  There was a Kinko’s just down the road.  He grabbed a ballot, took it over there, fiddled with the lightness setting so he could copy from the colored pink paper on to other pink paper without leaving toner traces, and he’d made a stack of 25 ballots that he planned to bring in to the room, fill out, and slip in the box during the meeting.  It was pretty casual.  People were filtering up and putting their ballots in the box in a slow trickle.  He had some friends inside and they were each going to slip 3 or 4 ballots in at the same time.  ”Are you serious?” I asked.  “As a heart attack,” he said.  Frankly I was a little shocked at this.  Election fraud at the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Department of Fish & Game?!  This could only happen in Alaska.  He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and did one of those “Muahahahahaha!” evil laughs and rubbed his hands together like a fly.  “It might just be enough, you never know,” he said raising his eyebrows.  “It’s probably about 5% of the total number.  They’ll probably never figure it out.  Do you want to fill out a few?”  I, being the virtuous type, flatly refused.  But what was I going to do now?

Before I figure out how I am going to narc on my friend with the nebulous personal ethics,   let me just tell you that the entire indented paragraph above is completely untrue.  A work of pure fiction.  There was no friend, no election fraud, no tampering with ballots.  Were you outraged?  Upset?  Gobsmacked, perhaps?  If you are a conservative reading this blog, were you ready to (metaphorically) strangle my friend?  If you were a conservation voter, were you appalled that this could happen, even if you may have liked the candidates that were going to have their votes padded?  So, what was the point of making your blood pressure rise?  IT COULD HAVE HAPPENED.  Quite easily, I’m afraid.  Technically, I can’t say that it didn’t, and neither can anyone else.  This is a problem.  And that’s the point.


So take a big cleansing breath and let’s get back to the real story.  In the meeting room, I noticed that the line of people waiting to get in was gone.  And yet there were still a couple empty chairs.  How could this be?  There were more than 500 people trying to get into a room that sat about 300 by my estimate.  I asked around, and learned that people were being allowed to vote and leave before the nominations had even been made, and before the candidates spoke.

I found out that the young man next to me had just turned 18.  This was technically his first vote for anything, he told me.  “How’d you like the rigorous screening process you had to go through?” I joked.  He smiled.  Nobody had checked his ID to make sure he was 18.


Nominations were made. Candidates spoke.  Some gave great speeches.  Some didn’t.  But sadly, it didn’t really matter.  Everyone knew who they were voting for.  One candidate referred to “our democracy” and someone shouted out, “IT’S A REPUBLIC!” This was followed by an ill-timed series of “Yeah’s” from the crowd.  Another candidate started off by announcing that yes, he was a convicted felon, but that it was a long time ago, and it wasn’t fair that his past be used against him.  It was a long night.

After the speeches, I went to fill out my ballot and realized that I ran out of lines and hadn’t written in a name I wanted to vote for.  How could I have miscalculated?  I recounted quickly and realized that even though the ballot said to fill out the names of 8 candidates, there were only 7 lines.  They also said to vote for one student.  I never saw a student.


Finally, the voting was over and the ballots were counted.  Those running the show were doing their best, but were obviously not prepared for the turnout they’d gotten.  They asked for volunteers to read the names off the ballots while they wrote little tick marks next to the person’s name on sheets of notebook paper.  Then, someone next to me recognized the woman reading the names to the “ticker” as the wife of one of the candidates who was running for a seat! This fact was pointed out to the counters, who appeared to be horrified, and told her that she couldn’t be involved in the process.  She looked embarrassed and slunk away, and a new volunteer was found.  They never did go back and redo the ones she’d done.


~Candidate’s wife getting up from the ballot reading.

I had that feeling I get at meetings when I knew it was time to go.  I passed out the rest of the banana brownies that Spouse had concocted for the occasion.  Everyone needed one.  People were taking brownies and thanking me like I’d just given them a hug, or pain medication.

In the end, not one seat was won by a conservation candidate, even though several of them were also hunters.  They weren’t on the list.  That guy who was a lifelong Alaskan, and former marine, raising his young family here who had just taken his daughter caribou hunting?  Sorry… he wasn’t on the “coservative patriots” list.  That darn greenie.  He did come sort of close to getting as many votes as the felon they endorsed, though.  Maybe some day he’ll measure up.

While I was driving home, eating my brownie, I didn’t turn on the radio.  My internal dialog was going – creating a list of what I thought went wrong at this meeting.

  • No numbered ballots
  • No checking of IDs to ensure proper residency
  • No checking of IDs to verify age requirement
  • No checking of IDs to make sure names matched to avoid multiple voting
  • Improper number of spaces on the ballot
  • Electioneering happening on line with “who not to vote for” lists
  • No ability for residents of places like Homer (5 hours from Anchorage) who are represented by this group to vote absentee
  • No candidate statements available on line or in writing
  • Votes cast before nominations were even made
  • A facility which would have been unable to contain all those who showed up had they cared to stay and listen to the candidates speak
  • AND, they would not allow me to bring brownies into the meeting room, despite the fact that others brought coffee in there!  An outrage if you ask me.

Almost one hundred out of the 560 who were present, came from the Mat-Su Valley.  That’s quite a chunk.  It should be noted that they have their own regional area in which they can run, attend meetings and speak for the Valley constituency which is of a very different makeup, culture and mindset than that of Anchorage.  Why, then, are Valley residents permitted to speak for Anchorage?  And if this huge region, as it is defined currently, is to be represented accurately, then how can we not allow absentee voting by mail for residents of the Kenai Penninsula and points too far to drive to Anchorage?  Representative committee?  Hardly.

But other than that, and the bullet list above, everything was swell.

The final vote, for those interested:

Justin McGinnis 158 Phil Lincoln 345
Terry Miracle 141 Frank Newmann 335
Lynette Morino Hinz 135 Greg Bell 331
Kate Swift 135 Ron Jordan 313
Valerie Conner 132 Robert Kaywood 312
Kneely Taylor 130 Mark Campbell 307
Karen Deatherage 135 Hank Hodge 306
Steve Flory 176
Stacee Frost 108
Art Nelson 80
Mike Preebie 65
Grant Clotz 48
Kenny Rodgers 39

The turnout really was spectacular, despite the disappointing result.  Thank you to those who cared and came, and to those who were willing to serve.  Until next time, we have a committee that completely represents the diversity of the Anchorage community (as long as they’re white, male gun enthusiasts and hunters between the ages of 35 and 60).

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