Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Another Election, Same Problem - State Gives Lindbeck 56% When He Really Got 68%

The Alaska Democrats agreed once to the ADL ballot (Alaskan Independence, Alaska Democratic and Alaska Libertarian (A-D-L)), which means that candidates from various parties all appear on the same ballot in the Alaska primary elections.

One rational is that it's more democratic, unlike the Republican ballot where only Republicans can vote.  But a primary originally was supposed to be where the parties chose the candidates that they preferred to run in the election.  You could almost say it was like letting your opponent pick what players you were going to have on your team against them.

The issue I have in particular showed up again in Tuesday's election.  In a primary, not only are candidates trying to win, but to win decisively enough to convince funders that they convince funders that they have a good chance of winning.

Here are the results for the ADL ballot for the Democratic primary Tuesday from GEMS (it's the third race down):
Hibler, William D. DEM        2578      9.40%
Hinz, Lynette         DEM        4445    16.21%
Lindbeck, Steve     DEM     15493     56.50%
McDermott, Jim C. LIB        3533     12.88%
Watts, Jon B.           LIB        1371       5.00%
The casual observer would go, "Oh, Lindbeck did pretty good.  He got 56.5% of the vote."  But compared to Don Young's (his November opponent)  89% in the Republican primary, that looks pretty weak.

The problem, as I see it, is that the ADL combines candidates who ARE NOT running against each other, and the state election office treats their percentages as though they were.  But the DEM's are running against the DEM's and the LIB's are running against the LIB's.

So against the other Democrats, Lindbeck actually got 68% of the vote, a pretty decent tally, a landslide in many people's minds.

I wrote about this issue at length after the 2008 primary.   Here's the summary of that post:

  1. The Alaska Primary elections had ballots that combined candidates for the Democratic Party, Alaska Independent Party, and the Libertarian Party of Alaska. The Republicans had separate ballots.
  1. By combining two or more parties onto one ballot, the primary is no longer a contest between the two party candidates for the nomination of their party. The percentages of vote for candidates that are not running against each other makes no sense at all.
  1. The state law says "The director shall prepare and provide a primary election ballot for each political party." To me, that sounds like a separate ballot for each party.  [A document put out by the state says a blanket primary is legal.]
  1. The Division of Elections Media Guide says that "In Alaska, the political parties determine which candidates will have access to their ballot and which voters are eligible to vote their ballot."
  1. Both the Libertarian Party and Alaska Independent Party by-laws call for what is known as a 'blanket" ballot which lists all candidates for all offices. That makes sense since they don't have more than one candidate for any office. Between the two parties, I could only find a total of three candidates in only the US House and Senate races. They have provisions for other options if the other parties do not allow blanket ballots.
  1. I couldn't find the Democratic by-laws, but their Plan of Organization says, " The Alaska Democratic Party’s primary election is open to all registered voters." That doesn't say open to all other parties. 
It all seems to hinge on whether the Democratic Party by-laws call for an open primary or a blanket primary.

You can go there to see to see the details. (And since I'm on vacation in Paris right now, I haven't reread the original post carefully, so there may be some aspects I would change.  You can point them out.

At this point, though, I think the Democrats disadvantage themselves by letting the percentage reflect more than the candidates they are running against.

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