The lieutenant governor of Alaska has turned down a ballot initiative that would create a “ranked voting system for Alaska (first choice, second choice, third choice), eliminate the third-party expenditures in elections, and create a nonpartisan primary system.
The reason for Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer’s rejection of the ballot initiative is that it involves more than a single subject. It has three subjects, evidently.
His decision was based upon recommendations from the Department of Law, according to a letter sent today.
“The Department of Law reviewed the application for compliance with AS 15.45.040 and recommends that I decline to certify this initiative on the grounds that the bill violates the single-subject rule,” Lt. Governor Meyer wrote in a letter to the initiative sponsor. “Based on this recommendation, and in accordance with AS 15.45.080, I am denying certification of your initiative application.”
According to a formal opinion issued by Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, the election initiative raised concern of violating the single-subject rule because it would enact three significant changes to democratic processes: establish an open primary, create a ranked-choice general election, and change campaign finance disclosure laws.
“The single-subject rule serves an important constitutional purpose in the initiative context by protecting voters’ ability to have their voices heard,” wrote Attorney General Clarkson in his opinion to the Lt. Governor. “But 19AKBE (the name of the initiative at the Division of Elections), if certified, would force voters into an all or nothing approach on multiple important policy choices, all of which implicate their fundamental constitutional rights in different ways.”
The initiative was filed with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor on July 3, 2019. According to statute, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office had 60 days to review an initiative application for certification once an application is submitted.
During the review process, the Lt. Governor’s Office works with the Department of Law and the Division of Elections to confirm the proposed bill is in the required form, the application is substantially in the required form, and there is a sufficient number of qualified sponsors.
The sponsors have 30 days to challenge the Lieutenant Governor’s certification decision.
The 25-page initiative would replace the current state primary election with a single primary vote, in which all could vote for any candidate regardless of their party of registration. It would also eliminate party primaries in favor of one big nonpartisan primary.
Although the initiative seeks to eliminate “dark money” from Outside Alaska, it has received money from a left-leaning election group that is also seeking to do away with the Electoral College.
The initiative effort, including the gathering of signatures, has been paid for with out-of-state money from a group called FairVote.
Local leaders of the initiative are former Rep. Jason Grenn, former Juneau Mayor and Attorney General Bruce Botelho, Bonnie Jack, and Scott Kendall, former chief of staff to Gov. Bill Walker and lead attorney on the Recall Dunleavy effort.
Under a ranked voting system, it would be possible to do away entirely with the party system, since under a realistic scenario, no Democrat or Republican might advance to the General Election. Every person advancing could be nonpartisan or undeclared, under likely scenarios.
Kendall and Botelho were the authors of the initiative. The group has openly called it a “three-pronged attack on the current election system.”