Some Homer voters celebrated a milestone this week: voting in their first U.S. Presidential election.
At the other age of the spectrum, pioneer Alaskans looked back at a lifetime of voting for presidents — or at least after Alaska became a state.
Homer’s young voters felt unenthusiastic about the choices in front of them, even with the excitement of voting for the first time. Homer High School student Hannah Stearns found out in her government class that she could register to vote if she would be 18 by Election Day, and she looked forward to casting her ballot after school on Nov. 8, despite the candidates.
“This is the last election that I would ever want to be the first time voting in. I’ve been watching it go down for almost a year now. It’s crazy,” Stearns said. “I’ve always been super in politics so I’m excited to get to weigh in. I have decided I’m going to vote for Hilary because she is not Donald Trump and I don’t think that a third-party candidate has chance of winning this year. It’s kind of like a ‘your hands are tied kind of thing,’ but she’s the best of all evils.”
Tara Hueper, a homeschooled high school student in Homer, was unsure of who she would vote for until shortly before she cast her first vote in an election.
Hueper, who felt unenthusiastic about candidates she felt did not match her values, gave her vote to Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.
“It’s such a confusing election,” Hueper said.
Margaret Anderson, 93, came to Homer in 1949 from Cleveland, Ohio. She achieved a first locally that Clinton hoped for nationally: in 1955, Anderson was the first woman elected to office, the Public Utility District board, the civic body that ran Homer before incorporation in 1964.
In 1944 Anderson could have voted for President Franklin Roosevelt, but didn’t remember. Her first memorable election came in 1960, when Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat John F. Kennedy ran for president. Before then, citizens living in the territory of Alaska couldn’t vote for president. She voted for Kennedy. Anderson remembered voting on paper ballots, except that instead of machines, ballots were counted by hand.
In Homer’s pioneer days, local politics mattered more, Anderson said.
“We had a great interest in elections. People were very civic minded, and of course there were all these issues similar to what we have now,” she said.
There was one difference, though: the population was so small people were aware of the sides to an issue.
“We called them the ‘for’s’ and the ‘aginner’s,’” she said.
One big issue back then was the hospital site and then the issue of whether the hospital should be a hospital or health center. Another issue was where the harbor should be located, either on the Spit or at Beluga Slough.
A more recent Homer arrival, artist Shirley Timmreck, 96, came to Homer in 1982. She lived in New Orleans and remembered not participating in elections.
“Louisiana politics didn’t interest me. You had so many lousy people in politics,” Timmreck said.
A Hillary Clinton supporter, Timmreck said the tenor of the campaign disgusted her.
“It’s been so messed up by Trump it almost spoiled the whole thing,” she said. “I didn’t have the same joy as I would have otherwise.”
Timmreck said that in her lifetime she didn’t expect some day she would be voting for a female major party candidate for president.
“But that’s pretty good. It felt fun. I think women are pretty smart, don’t you?” she said.
Anderson said it was great to have a woman running for president.
“I anticipated we would have. I don’t know why we haven’t had one a lot sooner,” she said.
Anderson said she thought Clinton would be a very competent president — just like the competent women elected to lower offices.
“Since those early days there have been many competent women, and there still are. I’m glad to see them,” she said. “I feel that I always encouraged the women and I did influence the women to participate. I feel very good about that.”
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anna Frost can be reached at email@example.com.