Emmonak votes to keep alcohol and remain ‘damp’

Voters in the Western Alaska community of Emmonak have narrowly decided to continue restricted alcohol sales and remain a so-called “damp” community under local option laws.

Certified results from the recent election were 122 votes in favor of keeping alcohol in Emmonak and 103 votes against. The community has a total of 502 eligible voters, according to local officials.

Emmonak is a community of more than 700 near the mouth of the Yukon River and had a long history of prohibiting alcohol. But voters in 2016 – also by a slim margin – approved alcohol sales at a facility run by the local government.

Emmonak’s City Clerk, Mona Andrews, has worked for the community during its last two local option elections.

“The first outcome, I thought it would pass, it was so close,” Andrews said. “The second round I was disappointed again. This time I had put signs everywhere in Emmonak to make sure people knew. I’m just sad that the results turned out for Emmonak to still be damp”

Andrews says Emmonak is working on ways to remove bootleggers and address regional concerns over alcohol in the community. She says surrounding villages have complained about the negative effects alcohol from Emmonak is having on their residents.

Emmonak’s tribal leaders and other stakeholders plan on holding community discussions regarding alcohol.

Andrews expects continued efforts to restrict alcohol in the community. According to Alaska Statutes, Emmonak can start a new petition to hold another election as soon as the past results have been certified.

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Davis Hovey is a news reporter at KNOM - Nome. Hovey was born and raised in Virginia. He spent most of his childhood in Greene County 20 minutes outside of Charlottesville where University of Virginia is located. Hovis was drawn in by the opportunity to work for a radio station in a remote, unique place like Nome Alaska. Hovis went to Syracuse University, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Broadcast Digital Journalism.