Democrats in Haines, Klukwan and Skagway can show their support for presidential candidates Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton during Alaska’s Democratic Caucus on Saturday. Organizers in Haines and Skagway are expecting big turnouts. The caucuses start at 10 a.m. and will take place at the Chilkat Center in Haines, and the school in Skagway.
Whether it’s the love of a Democratic candidate or the disdain for a Republican contender, Skagway’s Jeanne Tyson says there’s definitely a buzz around town about Saturday’s event.
“A lot of the people in my community are feeling the urge to vote,” Tyson says. “And many times before, maybe in all of our lifetime, we have never felt that urge before. I’ve always voted, but I’ve never been this excited about it and I’m feeling that fervor among my community here.”
Tyson is organizing the caucus in Skagway. She says they’ll be on speaker phone with other communities in House District 33, which includes Haines, Gustavus and part of Juneau, to sort out how the entire district stands.
“Mostly, I’m just feeling this love of somebody who’s speaking for our values,” Tyson says. “And the support for someone, rather than working against somebody else.”
In Haines, Melissa Aronson is organizing the caucus set to happen at the Chilkat Center. She says if you’re not a registered Democrat or even if you’re not registered to vote at all, you can do that on Saturday morning. From then, participants will watch short videos prepared by the nominees. And then, because it’s a caucus and not a primary, voters literally stand for their candidates. It’s called a fanout, and people who support Bernie Sanders go to one side of the room while Hillary Clinton followers go to another. Those who are undecided also stand together. The votes are then tallied. If a nominee is supported by less than 15 percent, voters must realign. Here’s Aronson:
“This is a very different process. It’s a little more freewheeling and chaotic, I think.”
After the caucus, any registered voters that want to continue their support can sign on to become a delegate with the chance to attend the state convention in May in Anchorage.
The Alaska Democrats will send 20 delegates to the national convention in June.
Alaska joins Hawaii and Washington in Saturday’s caucus.
Those wishing to caucus on Saturday must arrive by 10 a.m. The process will take between one and two hours. And, Aronson says, this isn’t an event where people should show up “on Haines time.”
“Once we get everybody in the door, then we have to lock the door so people can’t come in late,” she says. “So, it is really important for people to get there at 10. I have no idea how many people we’re going to have, I have no idea how long it’s going to take to get people through the registration process, so, you know, bring your patience with you.”
Along with patience, Aronson says voters need a driver’s license, and their social security number, or voter card. Also, those who are 17, but have a birthday before June 24 of this year are eligible to take part. Anyone with questions can call Aronson at 766-2185.
KHNS will have results from Saturday’s caucus on Monday.