GOP mailing spurs 5% party switch

Republicans gained about 600 members after registration push

Posted: Monday, August 26, 2002

A mail campaign aimed at Libertarians, Republican Moderates and Alaskan Independence Party voters encouraged hundreds to flee their parties to cast ballots Tuesday in the GOP primary, said the head of the state Republican Party.

Randy Ruedrich, chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska, said statewide mailings to more than 12,000 households successfully encouraged about 600 to make the switch.

The chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, which lost more than 400 registered voters since late June, denies Ruedrich's claims.

But in any case, state voter records show an increase in both the number of GOP voters and those eligible to chose from any of the six ballots in the primary election Tuesday.

The number of undeclared and nonpartisan voters rose by nearly 3,000 between June 26 and Aug. 5, according to records from the state Division of Elections.

Alaska replaced its single-ballot blanket primary system with a new closed primary. Each of the state's six political parties will have its own ballot Tuesday.

But the parties agreed to allow a large block of voters listed as nonpartisan, undeclared or "other" to vote in their primary. The GOP has 21 contested races this year, compared to one Alaskan Independence Party race and none on the Libertarian side, Ruedrich said.

The large number of disputed Republican seats prompted the state GOP to launch a campaign encouraging Alaskan Independence, Libertarian and Republican Moderate voters to change their registration in time to cast ballots in the GOP Primary.

"Becoming a Republican was not the big issue in this, it was the chance to vote in our primary," Ruedrich said.

The Republican Party of Alaska grew by more than 970 voters and the total number of Alaskan Independence and Libertarian party voters fell by more than 600, records show.

It's not uncommon for voter registration statistics to change prior to elections and it is impossible to tell what real impact the GOP campaign had on voters. But Ruedrich said he was encouraged by the results enough to try similar mailings in future elections.

Alaskan Independence Party Chairman Mark Chryson dismissed the loss of about 449 party members as a product of old election records being purged by the state. "I don't see that it really did a whole lot of damage," Chryson said.

Republicans did not target Democrats in their mailings. Democrats lost 23 registered voters between June 26 and Aug. 5, dropping their number to 71,597, according to the Division of Elections.

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