Story last updated at 4:13 p.m. Thursday, July 25, 2002

Time running out for party-affiliated voters to make a difference
Change can often be a scary thing. In the case of voting, however, it should be viewed as anything but scary for local voters, but attention is needed to avoid missing your opportunity to be heard.

According to the state Division of Elections, there are 12,398 people registered in the state House District 35, the majority of whom are residents of the Homer/Kachemak Bay area. Of those, 2,646 -- or 21 percent -- are in danger of losing their voice in our representative democracy because of changes in the way we will be voting in the Aug. 27 primary.

When they go to the polls, voters will be given the ballot of the party in which they are registered. For voters registered as Non-Partisan, Undeclared or Other, voting will simply be a matter of selecting the ballot of their choice from among the six party ballots available.

But for those registered in the Alaskan Independence, Democratic, Green, Libertarian or Republican Moderate parties, no choice but their own party ballot will be available. Since the only candidates running to represent us are Republicans, the primary winner, barring a write-in campaign before the November general election, will be speaking for us in the state Legislature.

Division of Elections Director Janet Kowalski said this week there is strong anecdotal evidence from the division's regional offices that voters have gotten the message. Statewide, she said, they appear to be changing their affiliation to Non-Partisan or Undeclared in order to make the most of their votes in the primary.

This is good news for the system. Representative democracy functions best when citizens exercise their right to vote, even when the system of voting may seem cumbersome.

Two Republicans -- incumbent Rep. Drew Scalzi and challenger Paul Seaton -- are vying to represent us in Juneau. While non-Republicans may bemoan this lack of choice, it is still essential for voters of all stripes to do their duty and make their voices heard at the polls. The only way to do so is to embrace the change in the voting system.

Time is running out to do so, and we urge non-Republican voters aligned with a party to make the change needed to preserve the power of their vote. Likewise, we urge unregistered voters to sign up and participate.

There are many ways to do so. Locally, the city clerk will accept new voter registration and changes to existing registration through Friday. There are also forms available online at state Division of Elections Web site (http://www.gov.state.ak.us/ltgov/elections/homepage.html). For last-minute registrants, forms can be downloaded and hand-delivered to the Anchorage office, which will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, the last day to register or make changes. Call 522-8683 with questions or for more information.

That's also the number for voters who wish to change their party affiliation but miss the Friday local deadline.

And if any dyed-in-the-wool party loyalists are queasy about forsaking their party, the Division of Elections says changing back is as easy as a phone call after the primary.

Change. It's never been easier. Or more important. Let your voice be heard.

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