Former Vice President Joe Biden won Alaska’s Democratic primary Saturday night, the first nominating contest held since Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race and made Biden the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
With all precincts reporting, Biden won 55% of the vote and Sanders won 45%.
The state’s primary, which awards 15 pledged delegates, was turned into mail-in voting after concerns of the global coronavirus pandemic scrapped plans for in-person voting sites. Alaska had originally scheduled its primary for April 4, before the pandemic, but was among 16 states and Puerto Rico that postponed their voting because of the outbreak.
Biden’s hold on the Democratic nomination, long likely since his romp on Super Tuesday, became all but official once Sanders left the race Wednesday. Although several candidates still appeared on Alaska’s ballot, just as they would in other states, the former vice president is expected to cruise through the remaining primaries without complication.
Alaska uses a ranked choice voting system. According to The Associated Press, the state Democratic Party received about 19,000 mail-in ballots, an increase in participation over the 2016 cycle — when the state used a caucus system. It continues a trend seen in several states this year that have switched from a caucus system to primaries.
Sanders, in announcing the end of his campaign, said he would remain on the ballots in the coming primaries this spring and continue to accrue delegates for the nomination — a move that could give him leverage to influence the Democratic platform and continue carrying his message. At the same time, Sanders was clear that he was bowing out and that Biden would be the party’s nominee.
In 2016, when Alaska held a Democratic presidential caucus, Sanders won overwhelmingly against Hillary Clinton.