John Sturgeon: Ballot Measure 2 replaces fair elections with trickery



You’ve likely heard the saying that politicians are like diapers: they should be changed often, and for the same reason.

All joking aside, if we Alaskans want to change public policy, we have to change the people who control it. Voters of all political stripes understand this simple concept.

We Alaskans use a time-honored process for “changing diapers,” and it’s easy to understand: each person gets one vote, and the candidate who earns the most votes wins. But this November, Alaskans will be asked to vote on Ballot Measure 2, which would throw our election system into chaos. 

First, nearly all the money behind Ballot Measure 2 comes from out-of-state billionaires and special interest groups unknown to most Alaskans. I know from experience that outsiders rarely have Alaskans’ best interests at heart. That’s why I fought the federal government at the US Supreme Court twice when they wrongly tried to assert control over Alaska’s waterways.

So naturally, I became worried when I learned that 99% of the $1.1 million spent in support of Ballot Measure 2 comes from outside our state. This alone should ring alarm bells in voters’ minds. 

Perhaps the most sweeping change proposed in Ballot Measure 2 is to toss aside our “one Alaskan, one vote” system and replace it with a scheme known as ranked choice voting (RCV).

It’s so complicated, it’s hard to explain, but here’s the gist: voters would be forced to rank every candidate on the ballot, regardless if they wanted that particular candidate to win. Fail to do that, and that vote is at risk of being thrown out if no candidate receives over 50 percent of votes cast.

In this situation, a computer system (yes, you read that correctly) would calculate the winner using an algorithm that takes many pages to explain to voters. Under this nightmare scenario, the candidate who is declared the “winner” of an election could be someone who received far fewer votes than the first-place candidate, but instead received a significant number of second, third, or even fourth-choice rankings.

Confusing? Yes. And that’s the intent. 

Backers of Ballot Measure 2 claim this will ensure that each election produces a victor who has the support of a “majority” of voters. But they fail to explain how a tortured majority that was Frankensteined together by adding everyone’s third or fourth-place preferences is really what voters want. Bottom line, this new system is unnecessary; our time-tested system of the candidate with the most vote wins works just fine. 

Former Governor Sean Parnell (R) and former Senator Mark Begich (D) agree on this issue, admitting it’s a mess. They wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial that ranked choice voting “encourages political trickery.” Special interests with political savvy will run wild, free to unleash unsavory candidate and ranking strategies aimed at forcing a computerized runoff and manipulating the final outcome. The political elite will benefit from these rigged elections while average Alaskan voters will lose their voice. The swamp is the only winner in this scenario. 

Stick with me, as there’s even more to attempt to explain. Another massive change proposed by Ballot Measure 2 is to completely throw out Alaska’s traditional primary elections and impose California’s “jungle primary” system. Candidates from all political parties, as well as nonpartisan candidates, would all appear on the same primary ballot. The top four vote-getters from this process would then advance to the general election. 

Once again, voters would be disenfranchised, because this process eliminates their right to select a political party nominee for the general election. In areas that are dominated by a single political party, multiple candidates from the same party would appear on the ballot, while smaller minority parties could lose their ability to advance a candidate to the general election. This could leave many voters with no desired candidate on the ballot. 

While I can’t speak to the motives of the New York and California billionaires funding Ballot Measure 2, I can tell you that the sweeping changes proposed by this initiative would disenfranchise Alaskan voters, invite voter manipulation and political trickery, and further erode trust in our democratic process.

It’s our responsibility to step up, speak out, and inform our neighbors about everything they stand to lose if Ballot Measure 2 becomes law. Sure, we may not have a ton of cash from out-of-state billionaires, but we still have something they don’t: the right to cast a vote in Alaska. Together, let’s protect the integrity of our elections and our votes by voting no on Ballot Measure 2.

John Sturgeon is chairman of Defend Alaska Elections—Vote No on 2. He previously spent 12 years fighting to reverse federal intrusion on Alaska’s public lands, achieving victory at the U.S. Supreme Court twice.

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  1. RCV is a step forward and progressive. Of course, conservatives will denigrate anything that takes the State into the 21st century.

    • A step forward? How? By implementing mob rule? It turns a representative democracy into a simple democracy. On the surface, it sounds good, but in reality it is mob rule.

      Here, let’s try this on for size. 50.01% of the voters decide that Rob has too much, and that 75% of Rob’s net worth should be transferred to Ken McCarty. (Ken has the honor of being the next comment). How does that sit with you Rob?

      Or, more specific to voting, how do you feel about Anchorage determining every candidate on the ballot? With the most voters of any area in AK, that is essentially what would happen. Would you feel the same way if Anchorage tended to support a different political party? It could turn out like CA where the candidates that get the most votes, regardless of party end up on the ballot. Net result is essentially a single party system because large cities control the population, thus the vote.

      There is nothing progressive about this at all.

      • And we end up with the Anchorage assembly for state governance. Due to a diverted flight I ended stuck in Anchorage for the night. Though they gave me meal vouchers, dining rooms were closed and walk in counters closed at 8. I walked up to the drive in window and was also informed that city ordinance forbade them from selling to anyone not in a vehicle. I went hungry from breakfast that day to breakfast the following, when I enjoyed a good sit down in Fairbanks! Anchorage, you suck and I will in the future make a point to not drop a cent there.

  2. No on 1, no on 2. This should be a no brainer and should be running continuously on the airwaves, radio, internet, etc.

  3. If you find rank choice voting that confusing, perhaps you shouldn’t be commenting on public policy issues ?‍♀️. Far from disenfranchizing voters, RCV is designed to ensure every vote counts and eliminates 3rd party ‘spoilers’ by rolling votes up from losing candidates up to winning candidates to ensure a fair head-to-head challenge for the final 2 competitors. Republicans don’t have to fear strong Libertarian candidates, because Libertarian voters will back-stop their Libertarian vote with a republican, and democrats can do the same with green party voters or soc-dems, etc.

    Except the big parties don’t want RCV because they feed off of the politics of fear that pervades the current system and invariably results in lowest-common-denominator candidates on both sides. No better endorsement of RCV exists than the viciousness with which incumbents and apparatchiks of the two party systems attack it.

    • Right. I trust computer algorithms to look out for our best interest. In fact ‘The Terminator’ and ‘I Robot’ (the movie not the book) come immediately to mind. Why bother to vote at all? We could just turn our lives and destiny completely over to machines to make all decisions for us. Who logically gets food today? Who is productive and lives and who dies? Who has the genes for best breeding to manage the herd? What could go wrong?

    • With the jungle primary there will be 4 only in the general election. None of them will be from third parties because the large parties will run multiple candidates and they will all get the 1 and 2 from the conservative or liberal voters.

  4. Ballot measure 2 is an attempt to guarantee control of the state and US congress is shifted to the liberal, socialist agenda that is being advanced to marginalize the individual. Our republic was founded on the rights of the individual and the taking of those rights is constitutionally unsupportable. NO ON 2!!

  5. I think the opposite should be put in place.

    If you are not a registered member of the party, you should not have a say in which candidate the party nominates. Only registered Republicans should be allowed to vote the Republican primary ballot, same for the Democrat primary ballot, and the same is true for every political party, across the board. Independents and undeclared get their own ballot for the undeclared and independents out there.

    To be blunt, if you do not have the spine to actually join a political party, you should not be allowed to tell the party who to support.

  6. The entire purpose of California’s so-called jungle primary is to force voters to vote for a Democrat or the other Democrat in the general election.

    Just say no.

  7. A ballot measure funded by outside dark money that claims to want to banish outside dark money, but that conveniently forgets to talk about the rank choice voting and jungle primary that are a part of it…what could go wrong???
    No thanks, you can keep your outside dark money out of Alaskan politics by not funding anymore asinine ballot measures in this state!

  8. I bit of a self own to admit you are so dumb that you are confused by ranking lol. The state democratic primary used ranked choice voting and it worked just fine. Also I do not care what Mark Begich thinks he hasn’t done anything of note lately except lose elections.

    • Ranking to be decided by a computer algorithm programmed by Google. Another well funded attack to undermine our form of government. I have a book about society run by AI and they call the citizens ‘chickens’.

  9. No on 1 and No on 2. Simple, straight-forward, every vote counts. May the spoils go to the victor and nobody walks away wondering what happened. I don’t like the outside funding coming in, pushing for either of these ballot initiatives. Thank you John for stepping up here and voicing your opinion.

  10. Seems like ensuring every vote counts means having the ability to take votes and count them however you like. If a Libertarian or Green Party member had no intention of ever aligning themselves with a mainstream party or candidate, how could they protect that interest and still have their vote counted? What if there were three candidates and a voter could not stand the idea of any of them winning but one, or maybe two? Where is their choice to not vote for someone?

  11. In 1933, Germany had the same type of system. Candidates that lost could roll their ballots over to another candidate. Hitler won with 35% of the ballots. Let that sink in.

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