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Primary election features three ballot choices for some voters

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Posted: Sunday, August 22, 2010 2:40 am | Updated: 1:09 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

FAIRBANKS — As an election-week reminder, don’t forget there are three ballot choices for some voters Tuesday during the state primary election.

Your party affiliation as of 30 days before the election limits your options, however.

Any voter, regardless of party affiliation, may choose the primary ballot that contains the candidates who are running as Democrats, Libertarians or members of the Alaskan Independence Party.

And any voter may also choose the ballot that contains only the two ballot measures to be decided. One of those is about prohibiting one level of government from spending money to lobby another level. The other one is about parental notification for children under 18 seeking abortions.

The third ballot is restricted and not open to all voters.

That Republican Party ballot is available only to those who are registered as Republicans or to voters who are undeclared or nonpartisan. In other words, Democrats, Libertarians or AIP registrants are not permitted to vote in the Republican primary, under rules set by the GOP.

We have this system because state law allows a political party to determine who may vote in the party primary.

In Alaska, the largest group of voters do not belong to any political party.

The latest report shows 177,219 undeclared voters. There also are 78,189 nonpartisan voters.

Add them together and you have a political powerhouse twice the size of the GOP and about three-and-a-half times the size of the Democratic party.

As to the difference between undeclared and nonpartisan, most people think of the two categories as identical and don’t know there is supposed to be a difference.

A nonpartisan voter is someone who has no party affiliation.

An undeclared voter is someone who doesn’t want to say if he or she has a party affiliation.

That means the undeclared voter might have a party affiliation, but doesn’t want to say.

I would argue that the two categories should be merged into one to reduce the confusion. The new group could be called, “I’d rather not say.”

We have 255,408 voters who don’t want to be labeled or boxed in by a party affiliation.

There are 126,486 Republicans, 74,802 Democrats, 14,464 AIP members and 9,392 Libertarians.

Add them all together and they are still a minority of the electorate, compared to the “I’d rather not say” party.

One reason that some people choose that option is that your registration status is public information, along with your precinct and the records that show what elections you have voted in.

The polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Keep in mind that state law prohibits campaigning within 200 feet of any entrance to a polling place. Don’t talk politics within that zone of neutrality.

•••

SIGN OF THE TIMES: If you are tempted to judge support for a candidate by the number of plywood signs and banners posted along the highways, there is a good reason to resist the temptation.

The campaigns that follow the strict Alaska laws on this topic are at a big disadvantage. They are penalized because they don’t get the same exposure as those that ignore the law.

If you don’t see campaign signs for your favorite candidate, it might not be because of a lack of support. It might be that the candidate has made a decision to follow the law and has asked supporters to do the same.

A minority of candidates take that approach and their names are not plastered along the highways.

Many of the signs you see along the roads are illegal, even those on private property.

Our elected officials have refused to amend this part of the anti-billboard law.

They know their signs are illegal, but political amnesia sets in once the votes are counted and they don’t want to admit violations.

Sen. Joe Paskvan tried to legalize temporary campaign signs on private property in 2009, but the Legislature refused to vote on it.

This year, the state Department of Transportation sent a letter to candidates July 14 outlining that signs are illegal within 660 feet of the edge of the right of way along most major roads, even those on private property.

But drive around town and you will see that a lot of people have spent a lot of money on plywood and plastic, violating one of the laws that candidates are promising to obey.

Dermot Cole can be reached at cole@newsminer.com or 459-7530.

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