Split ballot angers some

Primary election voters could choose among three ballots, confusing some people

Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Tuesday's primary election appeared to draw more voters than usual, but Juneau elections workers said many were angry and frustrated by the new split primary ballot.

"The turnout has been better than in previous primary elections," said election official Peggie Garrison, who worked at the Juneau Senior Center polling place. "We've been constant since 7 a.m."

Turnout figures were not available at press time late Tuesday, but even before polls opened the state had responded to 4,000 more requests for absentee ballots than in the 2002 primary and 6,200 more than in 2000.

Garrison said many who turned out Tuesday were unhappy with the split ballot.

"We've had to explain it to everybody," she said. "And they have been upset. They think it's stupid."

This year the primary gave voters the option of choosing one of three ballots. The new split ballot is the result of a lawsuit by the Alaska Green Party and the Alaska Moderate Party in 2003.

A Republican ballot allows GOP members to vote only in Republican primary elections. A "combined" ballot open to all voters gives the option to vote in the Libertarian, Green or Alaskan Independence Party primaries. And the "Democrat-combined" ballot allows members of any party but the GOP to vote in the Democratic, Libertarian, Green or Alaskan Independence primaries.

Election workers in Douglas said some walked out in frustration without voting.

Downtown Juneau resident Barbara Charles said she would have preferred to have all the options on one ballot.

"I didn't like it, for them to say this is what you are," she said.

Susan Quigley, 38, with three kids in tow, said Tuesday was her first time to vote in a primary election. Quigley said she voted in this primary because of the race for U.S. Senate.

"I'm motivated for change," she said.

Gov. Frank Murkowski's Chief of Staff, Jim Clark, and his wife, Susan, arrived at the Juneau Senior Center polling place during the lunch hour.

Jim Clark said he voted for his boss's daughter, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. He said he hopes the Nov. 2 general election results in Republicans maintaining control of the U.S. Senate and that Don Young, Alaska's sole representative in the U.S. House, and Lisa Murkowski are sent back to Washington.

Clark differed from others who said the split primary ballot was too confusing.

"I found it pretty straightforward," Clark said. "The election workers did a good job explaining it."

As the couple headed away from the polls, however, Susan Clark said she'd like to see all the parties go back onto one ballot.

• Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothy.inklebarger@juneauempire.com.

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