The Alaska Democratic Party has transitioned to a new system for the April 4th election, eliminating caucuses in favor of a hybrid primary. Whether this makes things better or worse may depend on where you live and whether or not you are a regular Democratic voter.
The new hybrid includes mail-in ballots and physical voting locations, but both come with restrictions that could prevent you from voting at all.
In order to receive a mail-in ballot when the party mails them out March 6th, party officials say you must be registered as an Alaska Democratic Party voter by February 18th, 2020. (At this time, it is unclear if people who register as Democrats between Feb. 18th and the April 4th primary day will be able to vote by mail or if there will be any kind of provisional ballots.)
In order to vote in person, you must live near a polling location approved by the Democratic National Committee. Those who do have access to polling locations will have the option of registering as Democrats the day of the primary. The Alaska Democratic Party has not released a list of locations but it appears that most of Alaska's smaller communities and villages are not on the list.
So, if you want to vote in this election, your very best bet is to register as a Democrat by February 18th with your current mailing address.
Luckily, it is very easy to register online.
You can check your registration status at http://myvoterinformation.alaska.gov. Make sure it reads "Alaska Democratic Party" and that your current mailing address is correct.
If you need to re-register as a Democrat or update your address, go to http://voterregistration.alaska.gov. You'll need your Alaska driver's license or voter ID.
Re-checking your registration frequently to ensure you receive that mail-in ballot is not a bad idea in any state.
While adding vote by mail will likely increase voter turnout in comparison to our former caucus system, the gains are unlikely to be spread evenly across the electorate.
First, the party's lag time in releasing clear deadlines and information until two weeks before the cut-off for registration will limit participation from unaffiliated voters. Second, restricting in person voting and same day registration to larger population centers prevents participation from rural communities and villages. Whether intentional or not, the DNC and the Alaska Democratic Party have created a primary that favors urban voters already registered as Democrats.
Our job as Bernie Sanders supporters is to do our very best to inform and educate our friends and neighbors about registering as Democrats before February 18th.
This means making a list of all the unlikely, rural, or independent Alaskan voters in your life and committing to call, text, email and follow up with them to ensure they are registered as Democrats at their current mailing address and therefore able to cast votes for Bernie.
We know the national Democratic Party convention will be a fight. We want to bring every Alaska delegate to that convention we can to give Bernie the very best shot at a delegate count that seals our victory in the first round.
So, carve out an hour in the next week to reach out to friends, and follow up. Our future depends on our ability to stay focused, positive, and organized right now!