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Alaska Republicans vote overwhelmingly for Trump in presidential preference poll

Mar. 7—Former President Donald Trump decisively won Alaska's first Republican presidential preference poll since 2016, with more than 87% of votes counted Tuesday.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley trailed far behind, likely falling short of the 13% threshold needed to have the pledged support of any of Alaska's 29 delegates to the national Republican convention, where the nominee for president will be decided.

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In initial results posted online Tuesday after 10 p.m., Trump received 9,243 votes; Haley received 1,266; and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who dropped out of the race and endorsed Trump last month, received 45.

The party counted 10,554 votes Tuesday night, accounting for less than half the turnout that had been recorded in the 2016 presidential preference poll. Additional votes could be counted in the coming days before the tally is finalized, but the outcome is unlikely to change significantly.

Alaska Republicans encountered long lines, confusing information and limited polling locations on Tuesday.

At the Eagle River public library, dozens formed a line that snaked around the corridor 10 minutes before voting began at 3 p.m. By 3:30 p.m., more than 100 people were waiting in line. Some said they had arrived at the building earlier in the day, only to discover that voting began in the afternoon. Others said they had checked other locations before learning about Eagle River's sole voting place.

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Soon after voting started, more than 100 voters were also waiting at Mountain City Church in Anchorage, one of four voting locations within Anchorage. Within the first 45 minutes of voting, 250 people had voted in that location — the assigned voting place for four out of the state's 60 House districts.

Polling places closed at 8 p.m. after five hours of voting in Alaska, one of several states where Republicans chose their preferred presidential candidate on Super Tuesday.

The day paved the way for Trump to win the Republican nomination. The former president has been endorsed by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan. Former U.N. Ambassador Haley dropped out of the race after winning only the Vermont primary on Tuesday. Haley had been endorsed by Alaska's U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Sharon Michael, an Eagle River Republican, was standing in line when voting began at 3 p.m. She said she intended to vote for Trump, citing border security and the economy.

"There's no secure borders, there's no secure military, there's no budget. People are out of work. It's a mess. We definitely need Trump," said Michael, then added: "if you're looking for somebody voting for Haley, you oughtta go to the Democrat (primary)."

Several Alaska Republicans had come out in support of Haley, pointing to Trump's felony indictments and his attempts to subvert the results of the 2020 election as reasons for opposing the former president. But with momentum heading in Trump's direction, some would-be Haley supporters said they decided to stick with Trump despite their concerns.

"It's not that he's the best choice, but it's the one that I was familiar with from last time," said Jason Delong, who voting for Trump at Grace Church in South Anchorage shortly before 7 p.m.

"It was kind of a toss-up for me. Like, do I want somebody new because I think they can maybe do better, or do I go with somebody that I already know his record in the past and I can rely on that? That's what swayed my vote. Otherwise, I would have probably picked Haley," he said.

The poll was administered by volunteers with the Alaska Republican Party, with no involvement from the Alaska Division of Elections. Alaska Democrats will select their preferred presidential candidate on April 13.

The difference between Tuesday's poll and elections administered by state officials left many voters confused. Steve Kreinbrink arrived at the Jewel Lake Community Church of the Nazarene shortly after 5 p.m., after first stopping at two other locations where he had thought voting would take place.

Loren Leman, a former lieutenant governor who previously oversaw Alaska elections, was one of a dozen Republican volunteers staffing the Jewel Lake voting location. He said he had to explain to several voters the difference between state-run elections and the party-run poll, including the reduced voting hours and limited voting locations.

"We need to do a better job getting the information out," said Leman.

Only in-person voting is allowed in the poll, and polling places were available in Ketchikan, Juneau, Homer, Kasilof, Kenai, Soldotna, Nikiski, Sterling, Anchorage, Eagle River, Palmer, Wasilla, Fairbanks and Delta Junction. That left many communities throughout the state, including the vast rural parts of the state, without a voting site. Party Chair Ann Brown said that's because it's an operation run exclusively by volunteers.

The party reported Tuesday that only two residents of District 2, which includes Sitka and other Southeast communities, and only three residents of District 5, which includes Kodiak, voted in the poll. No results were reported from districts 37 through 40, representing rural and predominantly Alaska Native regions of the state. All of those districts lacked polling places.

Republicans could vote in polling locations outside their place of residence, but most communities in districts 2, 5, and 37 through 40 are off the road system, meaning their residents would have had to board a plane or boat to reach the nearest polling place.

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Vote counting began after polls closed at 8 p.m. The Alaska Republican Party announced its results on a Google sheet.

The results determine the distribution of Alaska's 29 delegates to the Republican National Convention. A presidential candidate must receive a minimum 13% of votes in the poll to receive any pledged delegates. If current results hold, all of Alaska's delegates will go to Trump.

Delegates to the national convention will be selected in the Alaska Republican Convention in April.