My Turn: The difficulty of being independent or non-partisan

Posted: Friday, August 23, 2002

Back in the early days of statehood, I followed in my father's footsteps and proudly voted for the man, not the party. I, like my father, felt independent of politics.

I had no idea back then that when I voted for the man, I got the party philosophy that came with the man. I was nave about political party caucuses that determined how each elected official would vote on any particular issue.

Since then, I have made a choice based on the principles and underlying philosophy of the party. While I seldom agree with every plank in any party's platform, I have chosen the party that comes the closest to mirroring my beliefs.

Those voters that remain independent of party affiliation, such as I did many years ago, are voicing concern about the upcoming primary election. They are concerned about the new primary election law under which we are governed.

Lately, much has been said about Alaska's new "closed" primary and the negative impact many feel it will have on voters statewide. I think most of what has been said stems from the confusion over what a primary election is designed to accomplish in the first place.

Many feel that a primary election should be a mini-general election giving you two chances to vote for your favorite candidate or a chance to pick and choose regardless of party. But in fact, a primary election has only one purpose and that is for each legitimate political party in this state to select their candidate to stand in the general election.

While most other states use political party conventions to advance their candidate, conventions that only allow registered members, Alaska uses a primary election.

Perhaps this is the time to advocate elimination of the primary election and let the individual parties bear the cost of selecting their candidates through their conventions.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court, based on the Democratic Party of California lawsuit, has declared that each party has a right to exclude members of other registered political parties from voting in their primary election.

We are following that law.

If you choose to be registered independent or non-partisan, no problem. You are not giving up any right to choose a candidate in the general election just like any partisan voter. But since the primary is reserved for those voters that have declared a specific party affiliation it should make sense then that you cannot belong to more than one political party at the same time.

Nels Anderson, running for governor on the Alaskan Independence Party ticket, says this creates a problem for his supporters that want to vote for Don Young in the primary and vote for him (Nels) in the same primary. I would agree with Mr. Anderson, it does create a problem. The voter has to make a choice. But, isn't that what voting is all about?

Whether we like it or not, Alaska is a two-party state: Democrat and Republican; one party in the majority and the other in the minority.

Although we have six ballots in the primary, representing each of the legitimate parties, when it comes time to organize the state house and senate, each elected voter usually will fall in one of the two main caucuses.

So, you can still vote for the man, but remember: After the election you get the party that comes with the man.

Fremming publishes Alaskan Southeaster Magazine.

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