JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Democratic Party is preparing to debut a new voting system for its upcoming presidential primary, officials said.
The April 4 primary will use a ranked-choice, vote-by-mail system, The Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.
The new system will not have the problems that plagued Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, Alaska Democratic Party Executive Director Lindsay Kavanaugh said.
A significant change is the decision to drop the caucus system, which the state party used in 2016.
“They’re a fairly antiquated method of determining presidential preference,” she said.
Presidential primaries are run by the party, rather than the state, and operate under different rules from the Aug. 18 state primary or the Nov. 3 general election.
Alaskans complained in 2016 about overcrowding, long waits and the inaccessibility of the existing system for picking presidential candidates.
State Democrats have moved to a mailed ballot after proposing and discarding a plan for smartphone voting.
Registered Democrats will be mailed ballots starting March 6 and have until March 24 to mail them to a central counting location in Anchorage.
The mailed ballot should be accessible to many more of the state’s 75,000 registered Democrats, Kavanaugh said.
The party is planning for 20,000 or more participants compared to the 10,610 Democrats who participated in 2016 caucus meetings.
The ranked-choice ballot will ask state Democrats to list candidate choices in order of preference. When a candidate receives less than 15% of the overall result, the votes of those who made that candidate their top pick will be transferred to their second choice.
Iowa Democrats attempted to modernize their caucuses with an ill-fated smartphone application.
The Alaska party will use 45 in-person voting locations before the ballots are transported in sealed bins to Anchorage, rather than scanning the ballots and sending the results electronically.
“All of the ballots will be coming back to Anchorage in some form,” said Wigi Tozzi, the Democratic Party state primary director.
Tozzi and Kavanaugh declined to name the firm hired to assist with the election, citing security concerns.