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Alaskan family’s 225-mile journey to vote captured in film released Saturday

Claude Bondy votes on election day in 2016 after traveling 225 miles to get to the polls.
Claude Bondy votes on election day in 2016 after traveling 225 miles to get to the polls.(Courtesy of One Vote)
Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 9:34 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - While many people research candidates and prepare for the upcoming general election, the Bondy family has an additional task. They live over 200 hundred miles from the nearest polling location, so voting comes with all sorts of logistical challenges.

Claude and Jennifer Bondy own the Alpine Creek Lodge at mile 68 of the Denali Highway. They live there year-round with their son Bob but since the highway is not maintained after October, even a trip to their mail can be a several-hour ordeal.

“I’m fairly certain that there’s very few people that have to travel as far as we do to put our vote in,” Claude says in the film.

Paxson and Cantwell are the towns closest to the lodge, but since the Bondys live within the boundaries of the Mat-Su Borough, their polling location is 225 miles away in Sheep Mountain.

To get to Sheep Mountain, they have to use a combination of dog sleds, snowmachines and vehicles. Their journey to vote in the 2016 general election was documented in a film released online Aug. 8 about voting in America.

The documentary “One Vote” follows the stories of voters in five different locations from South Carolina to Alaska as they overcome barriers, encourage others to vote and make it to the polls on election day in November of 2016.

“[At] a time when political coverage looks from the top-down, looks at the politicians themselves, the idea behind our story was to kind of flip the cameras the other way and look at the voters that make our democracy possible,” Director of Outreach for “One Vote,” Eric Benninghoff, said.

The film was shown at over 60 colleges during the midterm election in 2018 but is now being released on streaming platforms as a way of reenergizing voters for the 2020 election.

“The idea was to create a film to bear witness to these unsung stories that comprise our exercise of democracy,” Benninghoff said.

The Bondy family was selected for the film as their commitment to voting “evokes the pioneering spirit of America’s earliest settlers.”

As the film shows, the Bondys wake up around 5 a.m. to prepare a dog team. On the journey, they take the opportunity to bag a caribou before arriving at their polling location in Sheep Mountain. Jennifer tells her then 13-year-old son about the importance of the trip, saying, “I strongly believe that it’s our right and our responsibility to make our voices heard to go vote on the election day.”

The Bondy family's journey to vote in the 2016 general election is captured in the documentary "One Vote"
The Bondy family's journey to vote in the 2016 general election is captured in the documentary "One Vote"(Courtesy One Vote)

Despite the difficulty, Jennifer says her family votes in every election. They prefer to be at the polls in person, but they also register for an absentee ballot in case the weather prevents them from safely traveling.

“Because we’re so far remote, you never know what the conditions will be, whether or not we can actually make it the way out,” Jennifer said. “But for us just to even get to our mailbox to get that absentee vote, is a good two to three hour snowmachine ride one way.”

The Bondy family may make that journey to vote in the 2020 general election, though they don’t have caribou tags this time around.

“Voting in person is important, it definitely shows for our son, it makes sure he realizes how important it is to make that journey out,” Jennifer said.

Bob is 17 this year, just missing the cut off to vote, but he can now watch the film online from the lodge.

“It might be choppy here and there, but yeah, we’ll be able to watch it,” Jennifer said.

“One Vote” is available on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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