By KIM JARRETT
THE CENTER SQUARE ASSOCIATE EDITOR
(The Center Square) — Qualifying begins in-person Saturday for candidates hoping to become Alaska’s sole member of the U.S. House.
Longtime Congressman Don Young died Friday.
A special primary election will be held June 11. The date was chosen to give candidates time to file and to give elections officials time to mail ballots to military voters overseas, according to the Division of Elections.
A special election to determine who will win the seat will take place Aug. 16, the same date as Alaska’s primary election.
The June primary election will be a nonpartisan primary with the winners determined by rank-choice voting conducted by mail. Voters can cast ballots by absentee at some elections offices, according to the Division of Elections. The top four candidates will proceed to the Aug. 16 special election.
The election will be the first time rank-choice voting is used since it was approved by Alaska voters in 2020.
Some are critical of the process. It is a reminder of “how misguided and shortsighted the 2020 ballot measure two was,” members of the House Republican Caucus said in a news release.
“Alaska is facing the prospect of being without congressional representation for nearly six months,” the caucus said in the news release. “Because of U.S. constitutional provisions, federal law, existing state statute and provisions of ballot measure two, we will have to conduct a special primary election as an ‘all mail’ election and a special general election that won’t likely be certified until sometime in September.”
Elections officials were questioned Tuesday about the need for a primary and a special election at a news conference. The old voting system also would have required two elections, according to Courtney Mills, deputy attorney general for the Department of Law — a special election and a run-off if nobody won a majority of the vote.
Two candidates have announced their intention to run for the seat. Nick Begich, a Republican who said he chaired Young’s 2020 campaign, created a website about his candidacy.
Democrat Chris Constant told the Anchorage Daily News he also will run for the seat.
Candidates have until 5 p.m. April 1 to qualify.
The winner of the August special election would serve out the remainder of Rep. Young’s term, which ends in January. Rep. Young’s post is on the November ballot, and the winner of that election will take office in January.