Flexibility of new primary system worth the hassle

What others say

Posted: Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Someone called the newsroom the other day to complain about the several types of ballots available for the Aug. 24 primary election.

Voters had already gone through one change, in 2002, and now another court action has prompted another change.

''Why must it be so complex?'' ''Why can't the parties just choose their own candidates without having a public election?'' ''This'll make us not want to vote.''

So many emotions.

Fact is, it wasn't difficult to figure out two years ago and it won't be difficult this year. And voters will have greater flexibility than in the 2002 primary.

On Election Day next month, polling places will have three types of ballots:

The Republican ballot, featuring only Republican Party of Alaska candidates, is available to registered Republicans, nonpartisan and undeclared voters.

The ''combined'' ballot will be open to all voters, regardless of affiliation. The ballot will include candidates from the Alaska Libertarian Party, the Alaskan Independence Party and the Green Party of Alaska.

The ''Democrat-combined'' ballot is available to all voters except registered Republicans and will feature candidates from the ''combined'' ballot and those from the Alaska Democratic Party.

This latest change is just the court system's way of accommodating the parties' sometimes conflicting desires in how they select their candidates.

Republicans rightly pressed for, and won, the ability to limit selection of their candidates to their own party members and those who are registered as nonpartisan or undeclared. That led to the ''closed primary'' of 2002 and one closed ballot for each party. Voters could pick only one ballot; no cross-party voting was allowed at all.

This year's primary election will actually include fewer ballots than in 2002 and grant greater choice to some voters.

That's due to the successful lawsuit by the Green Party of Alaska and the Republican Moderate Party, which claimed the mandatory closed primary wrongly abridged their right of free association.

Democracy isn't always pretty and often requires a bit of work. But voting is precisely the kind of activity where a little work and brain power should be willingly employed.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - July 24

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