We’re listening to you, Alaska voters

Woman knells in front of easel writing notes on a large white piece of paper.
Anne Hillman takes notes during a Voter Listening Session on Aug. 30, 2022 at the McDonald Memorial Center in Eagle River. (Lori Townsend/Alaska Public Media)

For the past few months I’ve walked beaches, popped up at rallys, and invited the entire community to libraries to talk about politics. Folks have gathered on Zoom and responded to online surveys all focused on what they need and want to know during this election cycle. We’ve heard from more than 400 Alaskans. People have talked about everything from their concerns for the future of democracy to which infrastructure projects should get priority to why the news media doesn’t reflect their point of view.

I’m doing this work on behalf of Alaska Public Media and our news partners KTOO, the Alaska Beacon and the Anchorage Daily News. We are working together to ensure that coverage of this year’s election is voter-centered and voter-driven. Why? Because voters’ needs matter most. Our role as journalists is to serve you, and that requires listening first. This is part of our effort to do that and to let you know what we’ve learned. 

Over hundreds of surveys and conversations, two issues have come up consistently in conversations with people across the political spectrum. The first is campaign finance. The voters we heard from  want to know where candidates get their money and why so much is wasted on ads and meaningless fliers. They say too much money comes from big corporations and wonder why we can’t have a system where small donations from constituents shapes who wins. Voters from all political identities want campaign funding to change.

The other consistent concern is that candidates will knock on your door to get your vote then ignore you once they’re in office. They listen to money, not to voters. Voters want elected officials and candidates to be accessible, to attend public forums, and to listen to them, not to lobbyists. They want officials to remember that voters matter most.

Other topics that are frequently mentioned are climate change, the need to work across political lines, abortion rights, elections integrity, infrastructure priorities, fisheries health, and state revenue and budget concerns. People also have questions about the potential for a constitutional convention. These are the topics that will shape our candidate questionnaire and much of our coverage going forward.

We know that as individual newsrooms we can’t meet all of your needs, so our four newsrooms are collaborating to share the work of accurately reporting on the topics you care about. Together we’re creating tools like an easier way for voters to compare candidates. It’s something people started asking for as soon as we launched this project. In late September we’ll release an interactive candidate comparison guide including answers to a shared candidate questionnaire and links to voter records that will help you assess the candidates before you head to the polls. After hearing from voters that they need more information about how, where, and when to vote, we’re launching resources and efforts to make sure your voice is heard.

You asked for it, and we listened. But we’re not done yet. What are we missing? Fill out our survey below and let us know what you care about. Have questions about the election process? Type them into the blue box and KTOO will get back to you as soon as possible. And be sure to read elections coverage from all of our newsrooms at alaskapublic.org/elections.

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Anne Hillman is the engagement editor for a special elections-focused project at Alaska Public Media. She also runs Mental Health Mosaics, a project of Out North that uses art, podcasts, poetry, and creativity to explore mental health and foster deeper conversations around the topic. Reach her at ahillman@alaskapublic.org.

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