JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska Democrats are deciding their choice for the party's presidential nominee, as just one major candidate — former Vice President Joe Biden — remains actively campaigning.
Results are expected Saturday in the party-run primary, which became an exclusively vote-by-mail affair after concerns with COVID-19 scrapped plans for in-person voting sites and pushed back the original primary date of April 4.
There are eight names on the ballot, reflecting the roster of candidates when the ballots were printed. The party plans to tabulate results on a rank-choice ballot for Biden, U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and the option of undeclared. Sanders, Warren and Gabbard have suspended their campaigns but asked to be included in the tallies, state party Chairwoman Casey Steinau said.
Alaska Democrats moved from their traditional caucuses to a primary for this year's race in a move Steinau said was aimed at increasing participation. As of Thursday morning, the party said it had received about 19,000 ballots.
That compares to the 10,610 who participated in the 2016 caucuses, when Sanders won the state, beating Hillary Clinton, according to party figures. Clinton was the party's eventual nominee that year. It is about double the turnout of 8,880 for the 2008 caucuses won by Barack Obama over Clinton, the party said.
The party said it sent ballots to every registered Democrat in Alaska as of mid-February, more than 71,000. It planned a hybrid system that would feature a mix of vote-by-mail and in-person voting sites for April 4. But with concerns about the coronavirus, the party moved solely to voting by mail.
Since only Democrats can participate, the party included voter registration forms and downloadable ballots on its website. Ballots must be received by Friday to be counted, the party said.
Fifteen delegates will be apportioned based on the results. The state also will have four unpledged delegates.
Lindsay Kavanaugh, the party's executive director, said she feels good about the voting system.
"Given where we are today and what we need to do, I think we're going to go off without a hitch," she told reporters Wednesday. She said she did not envision any hangups in tabulating using the rank-choice system.
In Alaska, politically unaffiliated voters — those registered as nonpartisan or undeclared — make up the largest voting bloc. The number of registered Democrats lags significantly behind registered Republicans. The state GOP opted not to hold a presidential preference poll this year.
Now-President Donald Trump carried the state in the 2016 general election.