Election ballots cause confusion

Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2004

ANCHORAGE Poll workers on Tuesday stopped voters between the sign-in table and the voting booth with a question more perplexing for some than deciding their candidates: Which ballot do you want?

Republican voters could choose the Republican ballot or the Combined ballot, but not the Democrat-Combined ballot. Democrats had the option of either the Democrat-Combined ballot or the Combined ballot, but not the Republican ballot. Same for Green Party, Independence Party, Libertarian Party or Republican Moderate members. Nonpartisan or undeclared voters could choose whichever ballot they wanted.


So were many Alaska voters in the primary election Tuesday.

''If I had been a partisan, my God, what do I choose?'' said Angela Henry, a 53-year-old Anchorage voter who is registered as nonpartisan, after voting at Denali Elementary School.

The new balloting system caused plenty of grumbling, but few actual voting problems. Most of the complaints, according to poll workers in Anchorage, were from people who wanted to vote across party lines.

Ernest Stutzer, 48, was one of those voters. He is a Republican and voted that ballot to support his party, he said. But if there had been two Democrats running for an office in his home district, there would have been no way for him to vote Republican and vote for his preferred candidate in the Democratic race.

''I'd rather have it so there is one ballot,'' Stutzer said. He's going to change his voter registration to nonpartisan for the next election to have more options, he said.

Besides frustration, confusion reigned in many polling places. Several poll workers reported having to go over the ballot choices more than once with a voter. One poll worker said he had to tear up and replace a ballot after a voter said he had filled out the wrong one. In those precincts, everybody eventually had their votes counted.

Other voters say they're happy with the new system, that it prevents other party members from undermining their party's primary.

''If you didn't have a closed primary, people could cross over and mess with it. For the primaries, it works fine,'' said Marie Congdon, 49, of Palmer.

Voters will get used to the ballot choices, poll workers said.

''This is a great system. I really like this system. I don't see how we can have a mess like they did in Florida,'' said precinct chair Rex Gravelin at the First Presbyterian Church in Anchorage.

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