Openness to new ideas, a spirit of independence, and a culture of community collaboration were part of the draw to Alaska when I left the echo chamber of Seattle behind and moved to Anchorage to set up my small business. Having spent a few years traveling to remote Alaska to meet eye care needs around the state, in various Native villages and small towns, I decided to call “The Great Land” home and purchased my optometry clinic in the heart of Downtown Anchorage. It was ultimately the people of this place that called me to put down roots for the long haul.
Upon moving here and starting my business, it was easy to see that Alaskans rarely fall into two partisan camps when it comes to voting. Alaskans are anything but black and white when it comes to their beliefs or political stripes. I found this deeply refreshing and genuine. We have a rich history of Independent candidates here, and 62% of Alaskan voters choose not to register with either of the two major parties. I have friends that vote red, blue, purple, and everything in between. As an Independent voter myself, when it comes to primary elections, I find myself torn between which ballot I should choose at the ballot box. Like many Alaskans, I vote for the person, not the party.
Fortunately, a new election reform on the ballot this November will open primaries for Alaskans to support the candidates of their choice regardless of the way they’re registered to vote. Why let a technicality as simple as voter registration dictate the support we’re able to leverage behind great candidates? Ballot Measure 2, also known as the Alaskans for Better Elections campaign, promotes unified open primaries, which would allow every registered voter to participate regardless of party affiliation. In other words, those 62% of Alaskan voters would walk into polling places in August and be able to cast their votes for the candidates of their choice on both sides of the aisle as opposed to being forced to select a partisan ballot. Open primaries place every candidate on one single ballot and the top four candidates, regardless of party, will move on to the general election. Simple, clean, effective, and fair. This places more power with the voters by restoring their full menu of choices back to their ballots.
This increases democratic participation from every side. More candidates should feel empowered to run for office and more voters can vote for the candidate they believe in instead of being limited by party ballots. We know that open primaries are successful. Alaska used this system until it was abandoned in the early 2000s. It is time to bring it back. Voting reform means increasing voter participation and encouraging our communities to participate in the democratic process. There is nothing to lose by putting every candidate on a single ballot and allowing every voter to participate in one primary election. This is especially true in Alaska, where so many of us are registered Independent or Nonpartisan. Let’s vote yes on Ballot Measure 2 this November and give Alaskans the opportunity to vote their conscience in primaries, regardless of the affiliation letters on their voter registration.
Dr. Daniel Volland is founder and owner of Ursa Optical in Anchorage. As a licensed optometric physician, Dr. Volland has spent fifteen years in the industry, including several years of remote eye care in rural Alaska. Dr. Volland serves on the advisory board at the Arctic Encounter, the board of directors at the Alaska World Affairs Council, and is a member of the Anchorage East Rotary Club.