Changes needed in primary system; 'real' election begins

Posted: Tuesday, September 03, 2002

The first result of Tuesday's election seems to be that it's pretty clear that one of the first jobs awaiting whoever is elected our next lieutenant governor will be to work on the primary voting system.

Informally asking around Tuesday, it seemed that a fair number of voters -- even if they expected the changes that came with the new closed primary voting system -- didn't like it much.

Some of the discomfort came with the need to identify your party affiliation as you walked through the door to vote. Apparently, different polling places handled it differently, and not all were terribly discreet.

Party affiliation is documented in a public realm, so if someone wanted to know your party affiliation they could sure find out. One might assume that those registered with a party wouldn't be embarrassed to say so. But not everyone wants to announce their political leaning in a room with their neighbors standing around -- especially if they pride themselves on being an undeclared or nonpartisan voter.

One would have to wonder how many nonpartisan or undeclared voters in North Pole couldn't help but feel a need to turn to everyone to say, ''OK, I'm taking the Republican ballot, but I'm not in that party; I just find that race the most compelling.'' North Pole voters, after all, were choosing between incumbent Republican representatives. The winner would run unchallenged in the general election. North Pole voters who were already registered in other parties did not have a say in that choice, but that's the way the ball bounces since a Supreme Court ruling led our state and others to make the change to a closed primary system. If your party puts up a choice of candidates, you have a choice. If not? Well, you chose your party.

Maybe this new system will just take some getting used to, but from our first impression, we'd vote to make some changes. Excluding ballot initiatives from the primary election process would be another positive step.

On the bright side, today is akin to the day after Thanksgiving for those who consider themselves active and involved voters.

OK, we're not freezing our toes standing in line outside a department store at 6 a.m. in search of the greatest Christmas shopping season bargain ever, but today is the day the ''real'' election season begins.

Candidates have from now to Nov. 5 to convince the populace they are the ones best suited to these respective jobs. Now is when the rubber meets the road. It's time to hear the different candidates lay out what makes them, and their respective party platforms, the right choice for Alaska's future.

All 40 state house seats are up for grabs and 17 of the 20 state senate seats are up for election as well. We'll have a new governor and lieutenant governor.

In a relatively intense period of two months we should be treated to a contest that will bring forth debate and discussion to inform and educate voters as well as sway them to cast their votes one way or the other. With a little luck, rhetoric and partisan politics will give way to substantive debate.

Let the contest begin!

--Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Aug. 28

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