2016 is an exciting year for Alaska Republicans. As we open up a new calendar, we see a year of opportunity to elect one of several conservative candidates with the competence and courage to lead our nation as president.
Although the general election is still 10 months away on Nov. 8, Alaska Republicans have much work to do to help determine the name that will have an R next to it when voters make their final choice.
The strength of Republicanism in our state means Alaskans have a robust role in the election process between now and November, but especially between now and July. Let me explain why.
The Republican presidential nominee is chosen through a series of state caucuses, primaries and straw polls that take place across the country beginning in Iowa on Feb. 1 and continuing for several months until the Republican National Convention in mid-July. In Alaska, our straw poll is known as a Presidential Preference Poll and is open to all registered Republicans.
The Alaska Presidential Preference Poll takes place on "Super Tuesday" -- March 1. Candidates who receive at least 13 percent of the PPP vote will be awarded Alaska delegate votes through a mathematically proportional system detailed in our party rules.
As I write this, Alaska Republicans have seven candidates to choose from: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump have qualified to be included in our PPP. Others may qualify before the end of January but it's already a remarkable and diverse field, representing a range of thought leaders from across the nation, with a good representation of conservative ideas and experience.
After the Alaska Presidential Preference Poll, we hold district meetings, with each district choosing delegates to the state convention, to be held April 28-30 in Fairbanks. Nearly 550 delegates from across the state will be represented at the state convention. From those, 28 delegates and 25 alternates will be chosen to attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18- 21.
At the national convention, delegates will be bound for the first two ballots by the results of that March 1 Presidential Preference Poll. State party rules govern how delegates become unbound should three or more ballots become necessary for a candidate to achieve a majority and become the Republican nominee.
How does the Presidential Preference Poll work? Republicans will go to their locally run district balloting locations from 3 to 8 p.m. on March 1. Registered Republicans cast their ballots, the ballots are counted and the results are announced within hours. Because of the strength of the candidates, we expect a good turnout.
Alaska's PPP has been conducted twice in the past, replacing a caucus system that was used until the late 1990s. The PPP requires a lot of work by volunteers but it has the advantage over caucuses because it allows greater participation by those who cannot readily attend a caucus -- or who don't want to. Already, volunteers are meeting and training for the PPP, learning from each other and passing along information from those who helped pioneer this straw poll voting method.
A reasonable person might ask: Why does Alaska, with so few residents, have so many delegates to the national convention? Alaska's 28 delegates are more than New Hampshire's 25, are equal to Oregon's allotment and are just shy of Iowa's 30 delegates. It's because of the strength of our Republican base here in Alaska. With three GOP representatives in Congress, and with majorities in the state House and Senate, Alaska is considered a powerhouse Republican state.
I encourage Alaska Republicans to begin studying the candidates in earnest because March 1 will be here soon. The Alaska Republican Party website (www.alaskagop.org) is the place to go this year to find out where your local PPP election will be held. That information will be posted in the weeks leading up to March 1, along with other updates and links that are important to the process.
Of course, we welcome you to register as a Republican and vote in the PPP, and you can change your registration at any Division of Elections Office or through a voter registrar in your community.
Peter Goldberg is chairman of the Alaska Republican Party.
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