Low voter turnout in Tuesday's primary election should say at least one thing: The closed system used was not an improvement.
It alienated Alaska voters. It placed party interests above those of the public. And it forced voters who are committed to nonpartisan politics to pick a single-party ballot in order to vote on an important ballot question.
Those who are touting the success of Tuesday's primary are out of touch with Alaskans. The low participation in the election -- about 21 percent statewide, about 25 percent on the Kenai Peninsula -- should provide ample proof of that.
But, in case it doesn't, Alaska's voter registration by party should. As of Aug. 5, here's the breakdown:
Republicans: 114,434, or about 25 percent;
Democrats: 71,601, or about 16 percent;
Alaskan Independence Party: 18,106, about 4 percent;
Green Party: 4,647, about 1 percent;
Republican Moderates: 2,896, about .6 percent;
Libertarians: 7,056, about 1.5 percent;
Other: 4,265, about .9 percent;
Nonpartisan: 67,202, about 15 percent;
Undeclared: 163,125, about 36 percent.
The numbers of nonpartisan and undeclared voters clearly say that the majority of registered voters in the state -- 51 percent to be exact -- have no allegiance to any political party.
One can only theorize about the reasons, but several come to mind: None of the organized political parties accurately reflect most Alaskans' individual ideologies. There's something in every party that Alaskans favor; and, likewise, there's something in every party they find distasteful. Most Alaskans prefer to vote for people, not parties. And most Alaskans don't really care what a party stands for; they want to know what a candidate stands for.
Alaskans should turn their anger over Tuesday's primary into action. They can make changes through the legislative or the initiative process. They can support the Green Party of Alaska and the Republican Moderate Party, which filed suit last week seeking a change in the primary election system. They can lobby the Republican Party in an effort to show GOP officials that when it comes to politics, Alaskans are not party animals.
But they should do something. Not voting should not be considered an option.
While Tuesday's turnout was not a record low, it came close. Only the primary election turnout of 2000 -- with a mere 17.2 percent of registered Alaskans voting -- was more abysmal.
In a year that's been marked by lots of flag-waving and love-of-country talk, Tuesday's turnout is more than disappointing. It's sad. Voting is one of the most patriotic of actions, yet Alaskans chose to stay home in droves Tuesday. Could it be that not voting is the new way to show how much Alaskans love this great land?
Certainly, Tuesday's primary did nothing to get young voters excited about elections. How could it? Most young adults are still in the process of forming their political ideas. Forcing them, or anyone else, to choose a party does not foster a love of the system.
As one young would-have-been voter wrote: "I gladly chose not to vote, because it's absurd to say I can't support someone from one party and not another."
Those who pushed for Tuesday's closed primary system and continue to praise it need to ask themselves: What was gained? Did low voter turnout and alienation of the majority of Alaska voters improve the system? How? Was it worth the results?
One can only wonder what kind of mandate elected officials get when less than 25 percent of the registered voters cast a ballot and someone wins by a handful of votes. Yet, a favorite pastime of Alaskans is trying to figure out how things in this state got to be in such disarray. Maybe a look in the closest mirror would be revealing.
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