Tonight, politicians on both sides of the aisle will emerge victorious in their respective primaries. Many of these candidates will win their races by wide margins, which will allow them to claim a mandate from their parties to carry the battle into the general elections. In the case of the two ballot measures, supporters of the winning side will have either changed, or prevented the change of, Alaska law, and will certainly explain the outcomes as "the will of the people."
Unfortunately, recent history shows the only mandate given by Alaskans on primary election day is that of indifference.
In 2008, the will of more than 60 percent of registered voters was to avoid the polling station, according to information available on the Division of Elections website. This was up, actually, from the 2006 primary election, where nearly two-thirds of people who could vote did not. However, a researcher would need to go back to 1986 to find a primary election that drew the voting interest of even half of those able to cast ballots.
It's easy to dismiss primaries. The races are often foregone conclusions, mere tune-ups for the general election. They come at a time when families may still be more worried about summer recreation, trying to get those last lines in the water before school begins and Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, arrives.
Imagine, however, if politicians and partisans were forced, by high voter turnout, to make their platforms resonate to the whole of Alaska, and not just to the die-hards who currently vote in elections.
Let's take a step toward making that wide-open exchange of policies and ideas the norm. Vote today. Ensure the representatives of respective parties represent the whole of their parties (and the other Alaskans who choose a partisan ballot) and the values the true majority of those parties want reflected in their candidates. Let's be sure changes in Alaska law reflect the vision of justice a true majority of Alaskans want.
Let's vote today.