Countdown to Election 2018: It’s complicated

Editor’s Note: The Empire will be publishing a weekly column from the nonpartisan League of Women Voters leading up to this year’s elections, in the hopes that it will help inform voters about the process. Here is a note from League member carolyn Brown, as well as the first column from Trish Turner Custard. Stay tuned for the next column in next Wednesday’s paper.

The election cycle is before us. The League’s mission and purpose is “to promote political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government and to act on selected issues.” Over the next weeks, League members will share information and opinions about issues of importance to Juneau’s citizens and the election processes involved. We similarly invite your responses and opinions to enhance all of our knowledge bases.

The League of Women Voters is about “Making Democracy Work.” If we do not decide, we can be assured that someone else will do this for us. We have choices. We can register to vote, get and stay informed, participate and vote our choices.”

— carolyn Brown

• • •

It’s election time again. This year we get to go to the poll three times in rather quick succession with the primaries (state and national) on Aug. 21, the municipal (Assembly and School Board) on Oct. 2, and the general (state and national) on Nov. 6.

It is exciting to be actively involved in the democratic process by casting a vote, but it also can be confusing, especially in the primaries and municipal elections. Which ballot do I vote on in the primary? What are all these different districts the candidates for the Assembly have next to their names? What’s my district? What do I do?! Have no fear, the League of Women Voters is here to help.

Let’s start with the primaries and a bit of history. Between 1947 and 2000, primaries in Alaska were either blanket primaries where a voter could choose from among all candidates of all parties listed on the ballot, or party rule primaries which, in short, split the ballots along party lines. There were a few tweaks and changes along the way and the primaries jumped back and forth through the years from blanket to party rule.

In 2001, Alaska’s Legislature passed a Bill that specified a primary election ballot for each political party. In 2004, a ruling allowed parties to decide if they wanted to appear on a Combined Party ballot. Parties also specified which voters could have access to their ballots. Alaska law allows a recognized political party to select who may participate in their party’s primary.

This brings us to 2018 and the upcoming primary. How do you know which ballot you are allowed to vote? The political party affiliation listed on your voter’s registration record 30 days prior to the election determines which primary ballot type you are eligible to vote.

Currently there are three primary ballot options:

1. Alaska Democratic Party, Alaska Libertarian Party and Alaskan Independence Party. Candidates with Ballot Measures ballot. Any registered voter may vote this ballot.

2. Alaska Republican Party Candidates with Ballot Measures ballot. Only voters registered with the party affiliation of Republican, nonpartisan or undeclared may vote this ballot.

3. Ballot Measures Only ballot. Any registered voter may vote this ballot.

Now what about the municipal elections and those districts?

On the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly sits representatives from three districts: District 1 encompasses downtown, Douglas, Lemon Creek and the airport. District 2 encompasses the valley, Auke Bay and out the road. The areawide covers anywhere in the city and borough.

Each district seats three Assembly members. The districts represent the area within which the Assembly member resides. This was set up so that one area within Juneau was not overly represented on the Assembly. The Assembly must be comprised of an equal number of people from each area to make the group well versed in the different issues throughout all of the CBJ. Now, here’s the fun part. As a voter you get to vote for a candidate in each district. Every voter votes for every district. Simple as that!

The League of Women Voters hopes this clears up some of the confusion surrounding elections. If you would like to learn more about election history, past elections, current candidates, and even see sample ballots, please go to the Alaska Division of Elections website at

• Trish Turner Custard is a member of the League of Women Voters.

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