Alaska Democrats are abandoning the sometimes-unpleasant caucusing system, where people go to a local district gymnasium on a specified day to haggle for their favorite presidential candidate and rotate around the room raising their hands for their presidential picks.
For the first time, the Alaska Democratic Party is moving to the system pioneered by Alaska Republicans, the presidential preference primary, but with upgrades: Democrats will use electronic voting, rather than paper.
And they are not calling it a “Presidential Preference Poll” like the Alaska Republicans call theirs, but instead it will be a “Presidential Preference Party-Run Primary.”
Wordy but accurate.
A simple way to think of a PPP is that it is caucusing by ballot box in every House district, and it’s run by volunteers, which makes it a bit cumbersome, compared to elections run by the State of Alaska.
In Alaska, such a system of picking presidential candidates is hard enough in towns, but harder still in vast rural areas. It’s Jedi-level volunteer management, not without its hazards. Whether by caucus or PPP, a lot of rural Alaskans don’t have the opportunity to participate in these exercises.
After the voting period closes, the ballots are counted by volunteers at the district level and the results are called into Party Headquarters, which then uses them during the state convention to divvy up delegates going to the national convention.
Ensuring accuracy and instilling confidence in voters that the votes will be counted fairly is a challenge the Democrats will have to figure out. During their last primary process, they lost the confidence of many of their members, after Bernie Sanders voters felt disenfranchised by a system that appeared to pre-pick Hillary Clinton.
Here’s how the Democrats’ presidential preference primary will operate:
The Democrats are calling it a true primary, complete with electronic voting centers open for four hours on April 4, 2020. This date coincides with Hawaii’s Democrat primary.
Democrats will then gather by House district and elect delegates to the State Convention, which will take place May 15-18 in Fairbanks. That’s where delegates and alternates to the Democratic National Convention will be selected. Those delegates and alternates will be assigned who they must vote for at the Democratic National Convention.
In other words, if Bernie Sanders gets 50 percent of the vote and Joe Biden gets 50 percent, half of the delegates heading to the national convention would be required to vote for either Sanders or Biden.
The Democratic National Convention is where the actual presidential candidate will be selected by the delegates from around the country. It will be held in Milwaukee Wisconsin from July 13-16, 2020.
Alaska Democrats say that any registered Democrat can participate in the Democrat PPP, and Alaskans can register as Democrats anytime up until April 4, 2020, to be eligible to participate. This had been the same for Republicans when they held their PPPs, but the rules are now that voters must be registered as Republicans 90 days prior to the PPP. It’s a way to grow your party numbers.
April 4, 2020 is a Saturday, a full month after Super Tuesday (March 3). Most of the Democrat candidates will be gone by then, but with electronic voting, the Alaska Democrats will be able to adjust their offerings to the few that remain.The locations that will be announced after Oct. 19, 2019, and voting will take place from 10 am to 2 pm on April 4.
The Democrats’ PPP will occur three days before the Anchorage Municipal Election ballots are due back in for the Assembly seats that will be on the ballot. It is likely the Democrats in Anchorage will use their PPP to assist in the get-out-the-vote effort to elect left-leaning Assembly members in Alaska’s largest city, and may even engage in ballot harvesting practices in conjunction with their PPP.
Why not wait until the Aug. 18 state-run primary? Neither Democrats or Republicans can do that, because the national conventions are July 13 for Democrats and Aug. 24 for Republicans. This is the main reason the parties have run their own preference-primaries and caucuses — they need to get through their district and state conventions and pick their delegates to send to the national convention.
WILL REPUBLICANS HAVE A PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE POLL?
The Alaska Republican Party will meet in September and decide on whether it will do a PPP for 2020. It has conducted a PPP for the last three contested presidential cycles, and this year, there’s no real contest, so turnout for such an exercise would naturally be low.
Odds are good that Republicans will skip the PPP process this time around and keep their volunteer focus on House, Senate, and the two statewide seats they want to protect: Sen. Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young.
DEMOCRATS START THEIR DEBATE SEASON
June 26 and 27: First Democrat Primary debate in Miami, (NBC News, MSNBC, Telemundo), moderated by Savannah Guthrie, Lester Hold, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow, and José Diaz-Balart.
Candidate qualifications: To qualify, Democratic candidates needed to get one percent in three national polls, or raise $65,000 or more from at least 200 donors in at least 20 states. If more than 20 candidates qualified, those with the lowest polling numbers are eliminated.
Qualified: Colorado Senator Michael Bennet; former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; New Jersey Senator Cory Booker; South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former housing secretary Julián Castro of Texas; New York, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio; former Maryland Congressman John Delaney; Hawaii Congressman Tulsi Gabbard; New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; California Senator Kamala Harris; former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper; Washington Governor Jay Inslee; Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar; former Congressman Texas Beto O’Rourke; Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan; Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; California Congressman Eric Swalwell; Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren; Marianne Williamson of California; and Andrew Yang of New York.
- First night: Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, and Elizabeth Warren.
- Second night: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang.
IMPORTANT FUTURE DATES
July 13, 2020, the 48th Democratic National Convention, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Aug. 24, 2020, the 42nd Republican National Convention, Charlotte, North Carolina
July 30-13 : Second round of Democrat debates in Detroit, CNN
Sept. 12-13: Third announced Democrat debates, location TBD, and it will have a higher qualifying threshold. ABC and Univision