Voter turnout 23% over average

A stack of Cordova General Election ballots. (March 2, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Voter turnout in the 2021 Cordova General Election was up about 23% compared to average turnout over the previous 10 years, according to figures released by the city. At least 676 voters, or around 32% of Cordovans, cast ballots. However, figures may still shift slightly, as up to six mail-in ballots have yet to arrive.

Cordova City Councilwoman Cathy Sherman praised the city clerk’s office for handling the election in a way that allowed high participation without requiring voters to congregate in large groups.

“If we could get close to 700 every time we have an election — woo woo!” Sherman declared.

The highest voter turnout between 2010-2021 occurred in 2016, when 833 ballots were cast in an election including a four-way mayoral race, three open city council seats, and a contentious referendum concerning a city land sale, City Clerk Susuan Bourgeois said. The lowest turnout during that period was in 2011, when only 296 ballots were cast.

The March 2 election, which took place in the wake of Cordova’s largest coronavirus outbreak so far, also reflected a dramatic increase in the use of special needs ballots. Forty-five special needs ballots were cast, compared to an average of about four special needs ballots during the previous five years. Two hundred and 32 Cordovans voted early, compared to an average of about 53 during the previous five years. Forty-seven absentee mail-in ballots were cast, compared to an average of 23 during the previous five years.

“Due to in-person early voting, we thought that the in-person numbers on election day might be low, but they weren’t,” City Manager Helen Howarth said. “To me, that’s such a critical thing: participation and engagement and access. We were able to provide that access.”

It could easily be inferred that the virus outbreak affected how Cordovans participated in the 2021 election, Bourgeois said. However, voter behavior may also have been affected by an earlier start to voting and by extended voting hours, she said. In previous years, early voting began two weeks prior to election day. However, a revision to the city’s election code allowed early voting to begin three weeks prior to election day this year.

The 2021 Cordova General Election included two contested city council seats and a strongly contested Cordova School Board race in which seven candidates vied for two positions. Two candidates also stood for three seats on the Cordova Community Medical Center Authority Board.