While the coronavirus disrupted regular voting patterns, the excitement the candidates for Assembly and school board seats still expressed excitement.
“It’s a big day. I’m feeling good. I’m really hoping we see high turnout,” said District 1 incumbent Alicia Hughes-Skandijs in a phone interview. “We’re doing it this way for the first time, so I hope everyone gets their questions answered.”
Five seats, three on the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly and two on the Juneau School District Board of Education, were up for grabs in this year’s election. Brian Holst and Martin Stepetin Sr. were in a noncompetitive race for two three-year terms on the school board. Alicia Hughes-Skandijs and Kenny Solomon-Gross ran for District 1’s three-year seat. Lacey Derr, Derek Dzinich, Robert Shoemake and Christine Woll sought District 2’s three-year seat. Maria Gladziszewski ran unopposed for a three-year areawide Assembly seat.
A by-mail election made it difficult to discern how robust turnout was on election day, but by 8:45 a.m., about 30 mask-clad voters had dropped off ballots at the Valley Library, election officials Kim Peterson and Jack Chenoweth said. They said the early going was slower than they expected since the week started off with a relative rush.
“Yesterday was a big day compared to what we had,” Peterson said, adding turnout could pick up as the day went on.
She has been helping to staff the vote center in the Valley since it opened in late September
Candidates have been at it even longer.
“It’s been a long road. I’ve learned so much. I’m glad it’s today,” Derr said in a phone interview. “I’m feeling good about things. I’ve had some great conversations with Juneau citizens.”
Some enjoyed conversation among candidates, too.
“I’m feeling very good. I’m feeling optimistic, just as enthusiastic about the process as when we started out. I’ve also tried my best to bring some new campaigning strategies to Juneau, especially just finishing an education on this topic,” Dzinich said in a phone interview. “In school, I was in Model UN, and I traveled to other schools to speak to debate. I really enjoyed the public debate forum with the other candidates.”
While candidates were excited to run, most are equally excited to know the results of this year’s elections.
Voting centers and ballot boxes closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, and ballots needed to be postmarked no later than Oct. 6, and unofficial results are expected Friday, according to the city. Further work will then be done to count mailed ballots, and a second round of unofficial results will be available on Oct. 16, according to the city.
“I’m excited for it to be over and finding out what happens,” Woll said in a phone interview. “I think Friday will be… I’ll definitely have some anticipation on Friday. I think my team ran the best possible campaign we could, but we’ll see what the voters think.”
Many are looking forward to taking some time off from the campaign, like Solomon-Gross, who said he looked forward to getting some time away from his phone together with his wife.
His District 1 competitor is also looking forward to post-campaign life.
“I’ll be getting in touch with the volunteers and then taking the dogs on the walks they deserve,” Hughes-Skandijs said.
All candidates voiced their belief in the importance of an active electorate. Turnout numbers were not available at 5 p.m. Tuesday, but many voters cast ballots ahead of election day, according to city data.
As of late last week, about 23% of registered Juneau voters cast ballots. That’s over 70% of the total turnout for last year’s municipal election, which saw 31.4% of voters cast ballots. A surge of election day drop-offs could lead the by-mail election past that total.
“It wasn’t as important to me as a younger kid and as I get older, it got more important,” Shoemake said in a phone interview. “If you don’t elect the right people you don’t get the right laws and everything changes, and it’s like, what happened?”