By ALEX GIMARC
Job One with the new Legislature is the total repeal of Ballot Measure 2, the rewrite of Alaska election law in 2020. As it has been two years since the ballot initiative was passed, the Legislature can repeal it with a simple majority vote and Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s signature.
The first public position on this was Senator Gary Stevens last week following the announcement of a Democrat-led majority in the state senate. Stevens didn’t think there was much support for a repeal.
While accurate today, neither he nor his majority have even asked the question, one that not only would the minority (albeit small) support, but the majority would at least be forced to discuss in public.
So, the job is to convince the new Legislature that their new Job One is to repeal the entire ballot initiative. In terms of energy expended, results achieved, this would far outweigh any effort at a repeal initiative. Though that initiative should be held as a promised response should the Legislature not do their job on this.
At the top level, Ballot Measure 2, which was sold during the campaign for its passage as a vehicle to eliminate so-called dark money from state politics, has been an abject failure, with over $9 million in Outside money spent by Sen. Mitch McConnell’s political action committee to reelect Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
A similar amount of Outside money was spent to defeat the constitutional convention. With that money, all of it dark, all of it Outside, all of it corrupting and overwhelming in-state campaign funding, the stated goal of Ballot Measure 2 was a miserable and complete failure. Not only did its passage not stop the Outside money, but the flow of that money increased to record levels.
None of this even touches on or discusses any of the other goodies tucked into the legislation, including ranked choice balloting, jungle primaries, and any number of disclosure provisions.
Happily, there are already proposals for repeal floating around. These have split into two approaches. One would repeal the entire mess (my preferred solution). The other would repeal pieces and leave the rest. I prefer the former, as it is simple, understandable, and can be done in two rather short sentences.
Why? The latter gets down into the weeds and allows Ballot Measure 2 backers to reprise the obstruct, distract, and lie routine used so well to campaign for its passage. Few Alaskans voted for Ballot Measure 2 because they wanted a jungle primary. Few voted for it because they wanted ranked choice voting. A lot of Alaskans voted for some sort of limit on dark money, which was the hook used by its backers to get voters to support the ballot measure in its entirety.
Response of the repeal crowd to this should be similar to what the Senate Bill 91 repeal supporters did a few years ago. In passing SB 91, we addressed what we thought was a problem. We tried to solve it. And the solution ended up creating worse problems than it solved. In short, the solution ended up being worse than the problem. Like SB 91, when something you try doesn’t work, repeal it, and try again.
There is already a piece of legislation floating around that wants to repeal a few chunks of Prop 2. It is a mere 33 pages long. This is a grievous and unforced error. On one hand, it acknowledges that the Alaska Supreme Court, which approved Ballot Measure 2, screwed up by approving a ballot initiative that had more than one topic. We don’t want to let them off that particular hook.
On the other, and more importantly, it intentionally muddies the water, opening an entirely new horizon for the backers of Ballot Measure 2 to obstruct, distract and lie about.
I could not think of a dumber thing to do.
If you want to repeal Ballot Measure 2, be honest and consistent with the voters. Say we tried something. It didn’t work. Here’s the proof. Let’s roll back to something that we know worked and start over again. That way we get what we want without insulting Ballot Measure 2 supporters. This has the extra added attraction of actually being true.
Want to repeal this? Keep the repeal very simple, and repeal the whole bloody mess. Roll back to a system that provided predictable results and allowed groups in Alaska to select their candidates. Doing it piecemeal simply invites backers of Ballot Measure 2 to do what they do best, quickly defeating our efforts with yet another wad of Outside money. And they are very good at that.
Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He was a small business owner and Information Technology professional.