The moneyed interests behind Ballot Measure 2 say their goal is to “curb the influence of special interest dark money donors.” That’s an ironic claim, given that 99 percent of the money behind Ballot Measure 2 comes from out-of-state special interest groups funded by billionaires from New York and California.
What agenda do these Outside powerbrokers have for Alaska? It’s hard to get a straight answer. But this much is certain: ordinary Alaskans, not rich people from the Lower 48, will be the ones living with the consequences if Ballot Measure 2 becomes law.
Ballot Measure 2 is a convoluted, 25-page-long proposal that would throw out Alaska’s entire election system. It would replace this with two major schemes that threaten our democracy.
Read the 25-pages of confusing language in Ballot Measure 2
1) Ranked Choice Voting
Right now, our election system is simple and clear: each Alaskan has one vote, and the candidate who receives the most votes wins. Ballot Measure 2 would replace this with “ranked choice voting” (RCV), where voters are asked to rank candidates by order of preference. For example, in a race with four candidates, you would assign a “1” to your first-preference candidate, a “2” to your second-preference candidate, and so on. You could choose to select only one candidate – but then you risk having your ballot thrown out if your preferred candidate doesn’t win a majority of the first-preference votes.
If one of the candidates receives more than 50 percent of the first-preference votes, he or she is certified the winner. But if no candidate exceeds the 50 percent threshold, then the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated, and the second preferences of those voters—assuming they listed a second choice—are allocated to the 3 remaining candidates. If voters refuse or forget to indicate a second preference, their ballots are declared “exhausted” and thrown out. One study of four RCV elections in California and Washington state found that up to 27% of ballots cast were discarded. The study authors wrote, “Voters who cast these discarded ballots had no say in the final round of vote redistribution, which decided the election outcome.”
Supporters of RCV say it’s better because it ensures that the eventual winner of the election will have “majority” support. But in reality, with so many ballots thrown out, many candidates are declared the “winner” in RCV elections even when they fail to win a simple majority on the first round of counting and also fail to win an absolute majority on the second, third, or fourth round of ballot counting. RCV is political trickery that gives us a “fake majority” that is in no way superior to an honest plurality.
2) Impose a California-style “jungle primary” in Alaska
Ballot Measure 2 robs Alaskans who belong to political parties of their right to choose their nominees for the general election.
When registering to vote in Alaska, residents can affiliate with one of three recognized political parties or one of ten political “groups” that are working toward political party status. Almost 42 percent of Alaskans choose to align with a political party or group, and a significant proportion of Nonpartisan and Undeclared voters routinely participate in party primary elections.
The purpose of Alaska’s traditional primary election is to narrow the field so that a political party sends forth one nominee to compete on the general election ballot with other party nominees, and also with non-partisan candidates who have qualified for the ballot.
Ballot Measure 2 would junk this entire process, and replace it with a jungle primary in which candidates from every party and no party will all appear on the same ballot. Instead of picking party nominees, the four candidates with the most votes in the primary will advance to the general election. In legislative districts that are heavily Republican or Democrat, there could be multiple candidates from the same party who advance to the general election, while other parties are shut out completely from participating in the general election.
Instead of granting more choice, Ballot Measure 2 would frequently result in fewer choices for voters, while also destroying any meaningful role for political parties. We agree with former Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell’s assessment: “Ballot Measure 2 restricts our civil right to associate and form a viable party. Sounds hardly constitutional or fair.”
Backers of Ballot Measure 2 claim it’s all about making elections “more open, transparent, and fair.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Alaska’s election system isn’t broken, and we don’t need Outsiders to “fix” it for us. Sometimes we need to choose better leaders—but we don’t need to monkey around with the way we vote for them.