March 1 is Super Tuesday, and Americans in 12 states (and American Samoa) are choosing their party’s presidential nominees — including in Alaska, where Republicans are holding their Presidential Preference Poll.
Democrats won’t hold their caucus until later this month, on March 26.
Alaska will send 28 delegates to the Republican Convention — the same number as Oregon, despite Alaska’s small population. The state punches above its weight in the nominating contest because it has voted strongly Republican in the past, with an all-GOP congressional delegation and Republican-controlled state legislature.
There are five candidates on the ballot: businessman Donald Trump, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Though there has been almost no public polling in the state, a survey in January by the Alaska Dispatch News – before the Iowa caucuses – showed Trump in the lead among Republicans, followed by Cruz.
Officials are expecting a high turnout. In 2012, more than 14,000 people voted in the preference poll. This year, the state GOP has printed some 25,000 ballots.
Polling stations will be open from 3 to 8 p.m. Only registered Republicans can participate, though voters can change their party affiliation on the spot. The Alaska Republican Party website lists polling locations.
Volunteers in each district must then count the paper ballots by hand. GOP officials don’t expect to have final results until about 11:30 p.m.
APRN’s Rachel Waldholz stopped by a polling station earlier this evening, and spoke with us from there.
TOWNSEND: Rachel, what’s the scene like there? How is turnout?
WALDHOLZ: I’m here at the First Christian Church on LaTouche Street in Anchorage. There’s a line out the door at the polling station, and has been for the last hour. The parking lot is full. People are having trouble getting in and out of the parking lot. There’s definitely been a constant stream of people. Turnout seems to be pretty high. I spoke with Suzanne Downing, communications director for the Alaska Republican Party, and she said it’s like this everywhere.
TOWNSEND: Have you been able to talk to Alaskans that are there? What are voters telling you?
WALDHOLZ: Well, in my very unscientific sampling of folks on line to vote here, I’m hearing a lot of Trump supporters. I’d say about 75 percent of the folks that I’ve spoken to came out to vote for Donald Trump. And they said their top issues are the economy and immigration. But I also spoke to a couple folks who say they are voting for anybody but Trump. So it’s a little bit of a mix.
TOWNSEND: When can we expect final results tonight?
WALDHOLZ: Well, polls close at 8 p.m., but all of this is voting is happening on paper ballots. So then all of the ballots have to be counted by hand, by volunteers, and then called or texted in to Republican officials who will be tabulating the final results. Officials say they’re hoping to get results from [polling] stations by about 9:30 p.m., and then they think they’ll have final results by about 11:30 p.m. tonight.