By PETER ZUYUS
As an advocate for senior citizens and a senior myself, this November I will be voting no on Ballot Measure 2. I urge you to do the same.
As seniors, we have long valued our right to vote for the politicians of our choosing. In a state with the highest percentage of veterans in the nation, we all have friends who fought in the wars of the 20th Century to protect that right. As the most active share of the electorate, we exercise that right more so than any other demographic.
On Nov. 3, we will be asked to eliminate this liberty by enacting “ranked choice voting.”
Instead of our simple and transparent “one Alaskan, one vote” system, Ballot Measure 2 will force every senior to vote for all candidates in order of preference.
Democrats will be forced to vote for Republicans and Republicans will be forced to vote for Democrats.
Independents will have it even worse, losing their ability to petition onto the general election ballot.
The paid consultants shilling for Ballot Measure 2 claim you can simply vote for one candidate and leave the rest of the ballot blank.
What they don’t tell you is that your ballot will be thrown out if the candidate you choose is eliminated when the computer algorithm calculates the winner.
In fact, research shows that 10 to 27 percent of ballots are thrown out during ranked choice elections due to this very problem.
Even if you play along and rank each candidate, seniors are most at risk of having their ballot thrown out due to voting mix-ups. Many of us have been voting for 50 years or more. Imagine entering a voting booth and receiving a ballot with 15 candidates that you must vote for in order of preference.
That’s exactly what happened in Portland, Maine in 2011 where voters were faced with a 225-bubble ballot. A single mistake – accidently ranking two candidates as your fifth choice or missing a row – could invalidate your entire ballot.
This problem of “spoiled ballots” is well documented. Research from San Francisco, where ranked choice has been used since 2004, shows that seniors are by far the most-impacted class of citizens followed closely by minority voters.
Voting should be simpler, not more complicated.
But the flaws with Ballot Measure 2 are deeper than thrown out ballots and complicated computer algorithms. Ballot Measure 2 would change the type of politicians who get elected. Because every candidate must work to be your second or third-favorite choice, they will be less willing to take strong positions and defend seniors.
While a politician under our current system might be a vocal advocate for protecting Social Security and Medicare, a ranked choice politician will try to make everyone happy. This does not bode well for seniors who make up a very small portion of the electorate at 13 percent.
History is full of examples of societies and countries that turned their backs on seniors in times of economic stress or political pressure. As we enter a time of historic global unrest and economic distress, electing politicians who care about seniors’ issues is critically important.
This year, New York’s governor forced senior centers to accept COVID-19 patients, resulting in 6,500 senior deaths. The Texas lieutenant governor said seniors should be willing to die to save the economy. Many people believe we should end all pandemic precautions and keep seniors locked up in their nursing home cells until a cure is found.
As Alaskan seniors, we must step up to save our democratic voting system – not just for our own sake, but for those who come behind us.
Our friends and families need to know that the billionaires from New York funding Ballot Measure 2 do not have our best interests at heart. Our children and grandchildren will be proud and thankful that we stood firm and protected democracy in Alaska and the United States.
As we prepare to pass the torch to the next generation of Alaskans and enjoy our well-deserved retirement, let’s make sure our “one Alaskan, one vote” system makes it through the transition intact. Whether you’re voting by mail or in-person on Nov. 3, I urge you to defend our democracy and vote NO on Ballot Measure 2.
Pete Zuyus of Anchor Point is a retired telecommunications executive and Chief Information Officer for the State of Alaska and an advocate for seniors citizens.