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Party Time

Pick a ballot and vote


By now I had hoped all those thirty-five thousand unregistered voters would have registered because it’s about time to vote. At press time, only about four thousand had, with less than two weeks left before the deadline on July 20 for the August 19 Alaska Primary Election. Much will be decided that day. There are eleven candidates for United States Senator; seven candidates for United States Representative; seven candidates for Governor; five candidates for Lieutenant Governor; and one Ballot Measure.

Additionally there are more than one hundred candidates for State Legislature, 25 percent Senate and the rest for the House of Representatives, though many of these races are not races, yet. The majority of them have just one or two candidates, many with two who are either a Democrat or a Republican, so when voters get their ballots, they will see only one person to vote for—not much of an incentive to mark the oval.

What if you wrote in the candidate that isn’t on your ballot, but is on another ballot? Will that vote count? No. There are no write-ins on the Primary Ballot. What you see is what you get. So, if you wanted to cross party lines and vote for the person not the party, there’s no way it can be done; it won’t count. No mix and match in the primary, which might be one reason for the low voter turnout. It has not always been this way.

Time for a little history lesson. Alaska used to have a Blanket Primary, one ballot with all the candidates, and voters could actually vote for whomever they wanted to. After a 1947 referendum, Alaskans enacted a Blanket Primary; however, in 1960 the First State Legislature replaced the Blanket Primary with a Single Ballot Open Primary, which wasn’t really open at all. There was still one ballot with all the candidates, but voters had to choose to vote either Democrat or Republican. If a voter voted for candidates from both parties the ballot was thrown out—invalidated.

This remained until 1967 when Governor Walter J. Hickel asked the first session of the Fifth State Legislature to go back to the Blanket Primary. The Legislature obliged. Then, twenty-five years later in 1992, the Republican Party of Alaska sued the state in federal court and won. Alaska then had a Party-Rule Republican Ballot for Republican, nonpartisan, and undeclared voters and a Statutory Ballot for everyone else. This was challenged in 1993 but did not change. The State of Alaska took the issue of the constitutionality of the Blanket Primary to the Alaska Supreme Court, which ruled it did not infringe on a party’s right of free association; however, in 2000 the US Supreme Court ruled California’s Blanket Primary unconstitutional and Alaska went back to the Party-Rule Ballot Primary, then passed a law for every political party to have their own ballot—there were six ballots in the 2002 Primary Election. The next year, after more litigation, a Combined Party Ballot concept took hold, with the parties deciding who could be on their ballot and who could vote on their ballot. That is how we came to have the current system for the last ten years—anybody Republican; anybody else; or nobody, just the measures—somewhat of a trifecta.

Another win-win-win is the August issue of Alaska Business Monthly. The team has put together another really great magazine, enjoy! And by all means, pick a ballot and vote!


—Susan Harrington, Managing Editor

This first appeared in the August 2014 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly magazine.
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