For most students, election season is a confusing time. Not only do students have to chose a candidate to vote for, but they also have to question whether their vote matters and how it gets carried out by the Electoral College. The Electoral College apportions votes to state based on that state’s representation in Congress. Alaska, as one of the smallest states, has three electoral votes — one for the representative seat and two for the Senate seats. Alaska is a winner-take-all state, meaning that all three electoral votes go to the Presidential candidate who wins the state popular vote.
The Alaska Republican Party has won the electoral votes of the state every Presidential election with the exception of the 1964 Presidential election. Alaska Republican Party Chairman, Tuckerman Babcock said electoral votes within the Republican party were decided by state delegates in April.
“Every two years, there is a grassroots gathering of Republican delegates at a state convention and the state convention in the presidential years nominate, chooses the three electors and the three replacement electors,” Babcock said. “And that was done end of April this year, and three Alaskans were approved at our state convention of Alaska if our Republican candidate gets the most votes in Alaska.”
Babcock has never been an elector for Alaska, but his wife was last year, and he said there are no requirements to become an elector.
“There are no qualifications legally, but in my experience what conventions do is hire people that they trust will support the Republican nominee if the Republicans carry Alaska and people who have been involved in the support of Republican politics,” Babcock said. “Now, in this case, the electors are former governor Sean Parnell, longtime active republicans, pretty young but Jacqueline Tupou of Juneau and Carolyn Leman of Anchorage.”
After Election day on Nov. 8, the popular vote will decide which party wins the three electoral votes for Alaska. In almost all past years, the Republican Party has taken those three votes to Juneau for the official ceremony.
“Then after the election if the Republican candidate wins in Alaska they will be flown to Juneau,” Babcock said. “In Centennial Hall, there will be a big ceremony where they actually cast the votes for President.”
In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson carried the Alaskan popular vote and was also the only time the Democratic Party took all three of the Alaskan electoral votes. Jake Hamburg is the Alaska Democratic Party communications director and he said the party votes to have three potential electors, but that those potential electors haven’t been utilized since 1964.
“We haven’t gone through this process since 1964 because it is a winner take all state, Alaska hasn’t gone for a Democratic president since 1964,” Hamburg said. “In the state convention in May, we elected our three electors. The three electors we selected at the state convention would serve in that capacity.”
The three Democratic electors were selected at the state convention but according to Hamburg, anyone can run for a Democratic electoral position if they follow the right steps.
“The electors are selected at the state convention, so the first thing you need to do is to run as a delegate at the district-level caucuses so then that allows you to be a state delegate at the state convention, and then you simply have to volunteer to run as an elector, and then the whole body of delegates at the state convention votes and selects the three electors,” Hamburg said.
The three electors the Democratic Party nominated are June Degnan from Juneau, D’Arcy Hutchings from Anchorage and Victor Fischer from Anchorage. The alternate electoral for the Democratic Party is Don Gray from Fairbanks.
Genevieve Mina, biology and political science major, is also the Alaska Young Democrats secretary and she acknowledges that the Democratic Party has only once received those electoral votes, but she believes this is a symbolic election.
“If [Clinton] were to receive the Alaskan vote that would probably be after the rest of the nation has figured out whether she has won the election or not, since our polls are four hours after the east coast polls and there is also the fact that Alaska only has three electoral votes so if you compare that to California…we’re pretty negligible,” Mina said. “But I believe symbolically, it would be a great testament to our changing nature of Alaska’s demographics and how we are slowly turning more purple, and we are not just a traditional Republican red state like everybody else believes.”
California has 55 electors compared to Alaska’s three due to population differences but Alaska has the benefit of single voters holding more weight because the state is ensured two more electoral votes than the state population demands.
Ryan McKee is the President of the Anchorage Young Republicans and he believes that the Electoral College is not as great as a national popular vote.
“I think a lot of us would like to see the popular vote take precedent over the Electoral College,” McKee said. “I think both parties could, for the Bush/Gore we would have lost that one but you notice in the Lower 48, there are basically seven battleground states, and those states decide the election. So if it was a popular vote, I think the candidates would be forced to spread out a little more over the country.”
Despite the problems he sees within the Electoral College, McKee still encourages everyone to vote. McKee said Alaska is unique in the fact that there are elections decided by a handful of votes.
“I would always encourage people to go vote,” McKee said. “Yeah, there are particular races they don’t think either one would be in their best interest they can always write somebody in, but I wouldn’t throw everybody out. We saw in rural Alaska, Dean Westlake beat Benjamin Nageak by one or two votes. Every vote, really in Alaska, every vote does count. My uncle won his second re-election by one vote, so in Alaska, I would say every vote really does count. So if they don’t like one person I would still encourage them to show up and vote for the other tickets.”
Alaska may only contribute three votes to the electoral college, but Republicans and Democrats have a way of selecting those electors in a way that enables anyone who wants to participate starting at the local level to apply for the position.