By ALEX GIMARC
Our friends from Alaskans for Better Elections, sensing a disturbance in the Force, have started an ad campaign on local radio in defense of Ballot Measure 2, the rewrite of state election law passed in 2020.
The ad campaign is a purely defensive attempt to change the topic from the failure of Ballot Measure 2 (aka Ranked Choice Voting) by telling listeners that not only is the rewrite a smashing success, but Alaskans are overwhelmingly in support of it.
I suppose that all depends on your perspective, which is where the “lying liars” part comes in.
If you look at their web site, the three big points of success are open primaries, ranked choice voting, and limiting dark money. The dark money piece is the most important, as their entire campaign for passage in 2020, all nicely focus-group-informed, was based on controlling dark money in Alaska elections.
Note that they are proud of pushing a ballot initiative that did at least three different things, any of which could have been offered and passed individually. Before their self-serving opinion on Ballot Measure 2, the Alaska Supreme Court had regularly and rightfully thrown out any and all ballot initiatives that tried to do (in their opinion) more than one thing. How did the court miss this one?
The problem is that Ballot Measure 2 was carefully and specifically written to only apply to dark money spent in state and local races. It was not written to control or even place any limit on dark money for candidates for federal office (US Senate, US House, President), or more tellingly, for ballot initiatives. This is why Sen. Mitch McConnell spent some $9 million to purchase Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s loyalty last year. Even Alaskans for Better Elections campaign was almost entirely funded by dark, outside money, as are their continued operations today.
In fact, Ballot Measure 2 had the opposite effect. Rather than controlling dark money, it put it in the driver’s seat, like it was last year. And dark money will continue to drive the campaign bus here in Alaska until Ballot Measure 2 is repealed.
If you remember the campaign, it started out mentioning the jungle primaries and ranked choice voting. Apparently, polling on both of those didn’t go so well, so it quickly and completely shifted to controlling dark money, which was a winner in their internal polling. Too bad it didn’t do anything of the kind.
The other failure of Ballot Measure 2 was seen in turnout, which was a miserable 44% in November, the last five off-year elections since 1998 all turned out at least 50% of the voting public. Note that 2018 was 49.8% which rounds up nicely to 50%.
What was the biggest difference in the campaigns over that period? Ranked choice voting and jungle primaries in 2020, which were rejected by the very people Alaskans for Better Elections ads today claim overwhelmingly support it.
What to do about this? The best way will be for the legislature to take a repeal as Job One this session. Make the repeal simple. A three-sentence bill will suffice.
- Sentence one: Repeals Ballot Measure 2 completely.
- Sentence two: Reverts state election law to how it existed on Nov 1, 2020 (or some date before election day 2020).
- Sentence three: This law goes into effect upon signature of the governor.
Anything else will intentionally garbage up the discussion, which is probably another intentional attempt to keep it from passing.
I expect such legislation to pass the House, likely on a bipartisan basis. Our problem will be in the State Senate, which is focused on jacking up education spending and blowing up the state retirement system with a return to Tier One defined benefits. Clearly, our work is cut out for us.
From here, Alaskans for Better Elections have assumed the Biden position. If their lips are moving, they are lying.
We had our experience with their new system. It didn’t work. Time to return to something we know that works and did work for the entire history of this state.
I really don’t mind trying things. What I do mind is refusing to admit the problem, and in turn refusing to fix it. Ballot Measure 2 is a problem. It is time to repeal it. Legislature, you and the governor are now up to bat.
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.