Biden wins Alaska Democratic presidential primary, claiming 8 of 15 delegates

Ballots from the Alaska Democratic presidential primary sitting at the party’s counting facility Saturday. (Courtesy Alaska Democratic Party)

Joe Biden won the Alaska Democratic primary election Saturday, collecting 55 percent of votes and eight of 15 delegates — narrowly edging out Bernie Sanders, who collected 45 percent and seven delegates.

Each candidate also received one alternate delegate.

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Saturday’s Democratic presidential primary in Alaska was the first since Sanders announced earlier this week that he was dropping out of the presidential race.

This year’s Alaska Democratic primary abandoned the traditional caucus in favor of a by-mail and in-person primary. Democrats mailed 71,000 ballots to every registered party member in February and were scheduled to hold “last-chance” in-person voting at 60 polling places across the state on April 4.

As the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the party announced in late March that it had canceled in-person voting, and pushed back the mail-in ballot deadline from a March 24 postmark to an April 10 arrival.

Social distancing measures also forced changes to ballot collection and counting, said election director Wigi Tozzi.

To make sure no ballots were tampered with, the party wanted three people to pick them up from the post office together. Instead of doing so in one car, they had to drive in a convoy.

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“We put them in one vehicle. That vehicle went first and the other two vehicles followed, to make sure that the driver didn’t stop or do anything between there and the storage location,” Tozzi said.

At the abandoned office space, volunteers wore masks and gloves and had to space themselves out, which felt “a little apocalyptic,” he added.

“Physically, it was a little uncomfortable — I don’t think I’ve ever worn gloves for that long,” he said. “It’s been 10 days of wearing gloves for like 12 hours a day.”

The party had already received the vast majority of the ballots before Sanders dropped out Wednesday: Three days before his announcement, Democrats said 16,300 had been mailed back. The party counted 19,800 ballots Saturday, which it said was nearly double the turnout in the 2016 primary.

Democrats used a “ranked-choice” voting system, in which party members ranked their top five candidates in order of preference.

Candidates had to receive 15% of the vote to receive any of the 15 delegates at stake in the primary. Those below the threshold had their votes redistributed to second-choice candidates, and that process was repeated until the remaining candidates each had at least 15% of votes.

There were eight candidates on the Alaska Democratic ballot. But the party only counted votes for “active candidates” and those who had suspended their campaigns but still wanted to be included in the tally, which it said included Biden, Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard.

As of last week, Democrats represented 13 percent, or 75,500, of Alaska’s 573,000 registered voters. Most Alaska voters are registered as nonpartisan or undeclared.

Nathaniel Herz is an Anchorage-based journalist. He's been a reporter in Alaska for a decade, and is currently reporting for Alaska Public Media. Find more of his work by subscribing to his newsletter, Northern Journal, at Reach him at

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