This post is by Jeanne Devon, the communications director of the Alaska Democratic Party. To submit articles or opinions for consideration to run on The Midnight Sun, contact editor Matt Buxton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year, Alaska is one of four states (along with Hawai’i, Kansas, and Wyoming) implementing a party-run primary with both mail-in, and in-person ranked choice ballot options.
The former method, an antiquated in-person caucus system, has faced logistical challenges in the past. In a state the size of Alaska, securing voting venues, especially in communities off the road system, and accommodating robust caucus turnout has been an ongoing challenge. In 2008, for example, so many Anchorage caucus-goers turned out at Begich Middle School that the venue actually exceeded capacity.
In addition to logistical issues, the caucus attendees sometimes felt like they had to vote for whomever they thought could win, rather than their true first choice, and second-guessed themselves on what to do in a crowded and sometimes chaotic environment.
The primary is open to all registered Democrats, and most voting will be conducted via a mail-in ballot. Ballots have been sent to every Democratic voter in the state who was registered by February 18, and must be returned postmarked by March 24th to be counted.
“Logistics and individual voter empowerment are both reasons we chose to move to a party-run primary and utilize ranked-choice voting,” said Lindsay Kavanaugh, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party.
“We did a big communications push late last year and early this year to ensure that those who want to participate understand that they will need to be registered Democrats,” said Kavanaugh.
Alaska Democrats still have the opportunity to vote even if they don’t receive the ballot or if they would rather vote in person. The Democratic Party has secured in-person voting locations that open on April 4th from 10am to 2pm. Voters will be able to register as Democrats and vote that day. The Alaska Democratic Party has these locations listed on their website: https://bit.ly/3csrfOe
Alaskans will also see the introduction of a ranked-choice ballot this year.
“This method ensures that voters are able to rank backup choices if the candidate they like the most isn’t viable, which ultimately means voters aren’t ‘wasting votes’ or having to vote strategically. It creates a better voter experience.”
The Democratic Party has posted an informational video of how the process works here:
“Right now, there’s a lot going on regarding voting and voter issues. There will also be an Anchorage Municipal election mail-in ballot that’s going out around the same time, so Alaska’s Democrats need to look for and return two ballots, making sure that their presidential primary ballot is postmarked by March 24,” said Kavanaugh. “We’re incredibly excited that for the first time, Alaskans will have an easy way to participate in delegate selection, and a method of voting that truly reflects how they feel.”