The bad plan offered by Ballot Measure 2 - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, August 4, 2020
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The bad plan offered by Ballot Measure 2



The Covid crisis has increased interest in improving America’s election system. But not all election reforms would make things better.

Here in Alaska, a Colorado-based political-action committee, Unite America, spent more than $1 million to place the so-called Better Elections initiative on the November ballot. It’s a bad plan.

The voting process in Alaska, as in most states, is simple: Voters pick one candidate for each office, and the candidate with the most votes wins. The initiative would introduce a confusing new system called ranked-choice voting. Voters would receive a grid to rank multiple candidates. If no candidate receives a majority of “first place” votes, the lowest-ranked candidate would be eliminated. Votes would be retabulated based on second choices—then third and fourth ones until a “majority” emerges.

Jason McDaniel, a political scientist at San Francisco State University, found that ranked-choice voting decreased turnout by 3 to 5 percentage points on average in cities that implemented it. Mr. McDaniel was blunt in his conclusion, telling the New York Times : “My research shows that when you make things more complicated, which this does, there’s going be lower turnout.”

Voters may also be discouraged to learn their ballots may not count at all in the final vote. If you pick only one candidate and decline to rank the others, and your candidate is eliminated, your ballot is thrown out under what’s called “ballot exhaustion.”

2014 study of four cities’ ranked-choice elections, published in the journal Electoral Studies, found that up to 27% of ballots were “exhausted” and thus excluded from the final vote total.

The system also encourages political trickery. In the 2018 San Francisco mayoral race, two progressive candidates campaigned jointly—even cutting a television ad together—to try to game the system against a more moderate rival.

The gambit failed but drew harsh condemnation from the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, which noted that “theories of elevating turnout and producing more positive, issue-oriented campaigns are not playing out in reality.”

Not surprisingly, several states and locales that experimented with ranked-choice voting—including Ann Arbor, Mich.; Aspen, Colo.; Pierce County, Wash.; and the state of North Carolina—have since repealed it.

Opposition to ranked-choice voting is bipartisan. In New York City, the state NAACP opposed it, and three Democratic members of the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus said it hurts “immigrants and communities of color.” Minnesota state Sen. Mark Koran, a Republican, co-sponsored legislation to outlaw ranked-choice voting in his state: “Every vote should count, and every vote should be as simple as ‘I picked my top candidate.’ ”

As former elected officials from different parties, we’ve had our share of disagreements. But we are united in our belief that the Better Elections initiative would be bad for our state. Alaskans shouldn’t have to doubt that their votes count.

Mark Begich, a Democrat, served as a U.S. Senator from Alaska, 2009-15. Sean Parnell, a Republican, served as Alaska’s governor, 2009-14.

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Latest comments

  • Scandinavian voting in action, it’s very difficult for a political party to get “their insider choice” into the big seat.
    Biden wouldn’t even be in the mix in Scandinavia, and the DNC wouldn’t be able to blacklist a Tulsi Gabbard so easily.

    Ranked choice means little to no chance for maintaining an established duopoly as we have in the US.

  • If it ain’t broke leave it alone. To insure valid votes should have people have to show up show ID .And one vote per issue or person.Quite trying to change our way of f life

  • I’ll be voting in favor of Ballot Measure 2. Parnell and Begich have both gotten rich by using the party system to their advantage. Anything that will destroy the two party system will make Alaska better.

    • You really are illiterate and liberal. I suspect you’ll vote for Sloppy Joe anyway.

    • Let’s examine that. Apply a logical tool called Reductio Ad Absurdum and take it to an extreme. Let’s say there are 100 parties running instead of two. The winner of that race could be determined by 2% of the votes. So in a state with 30% voter turnout we could have 1,800 people determine our elections.

      How is that “better”?

  • The Advertisement for this iniative is very deceiving and looks to control voting for bad choices. If the ballot initiative passes it will be the end of free and fair elections.

  • Help us understand… the Great Alaska LeDoux Vote Experiment, Anchorage’s easily corruptible mail-in vote system, elected representatives defrauding voters by joining the opposition, accurately predicting election outcomes by the size of campaign donations; these things are okay
    but Ballot Measure 2 which seems to enshrine ballot corruption is not okay?
    What’s China Flu to do with it? Are you saying Americans who’ve managed to vote successfully throughout 244 years of wars and diseases far worse than China flu, need bipartisan help to get rid of Donald Trump, sabotage their economy, freedoms, and way of life, because after all, it is the China flu, but BM2 ain’t quite the help you had in mind?
    The intent of Ballot Measure 2 seems simple… enshrine permanent corruption of Alaska’s state and local voting systems.
    A hardened cynic might wonder whether this bipartisan drama erupted because Someone Important’s very worried the wrong racket might accidentally benefit, or worse get its nose under the Establishment tent, muscle in on Establishment territory… which means the Establishment could find itself in mortal combat with a doppelganger every bit as ruthless, greedy, corrupt, and vicious as itself.
    So, Mark and Sean, bin the bipartisan bon home… political careers, peoples’ ability to get money and power may be at stake here, what’s in play to assure Ballot Measure 2 does not pass?

  • This piece appeared in the Wall Street Journal several days ago. Interesting that the ADN has not reprinted it. Apparently they are too busy reprinting hit pieces on Trump and conservatives to notice the Parnell/Begich column.

    And BTW – All Lives Matter. If this statement causes a problem for someone, that is their problem, not mine.

  • At this point I am willing to do almost anything to break the stranglehold the two big parties have on our election process. This initiative would give good candidates from outside the system a fighting chance. Remember when we had to choose between Tony and Sarah? Bad choices both in my estimation. Andrew Halcro was also running. He had an incredible grasp of all the issues and was the only one who could give honest accurate answers in the debates. I voted for him even though I knew I was throwing my vote away. If we had put something like ballot measure 2 in place at that time I believe he would have had a real shot at winning, but most folks were voting against either Tony or Sarah. A real shame as we could have had a real honest, well informed hard working governor. I doubt anyone will ever match Wally Hickel but Andrew may have come close. We need change and this may be our best shot at getting real people into office instead of professional politicians who are only worried about getting re-elected.

  • Can’t figure out rank choice voting? Maybe you shouldn’t be adding your ignorance to our political decision making process; too many low information voters as it is. Only party hacks and people held back several grades would be opposed to breaking the monopoly of the two party system .

    • Maybe you should go back to mommy’s basement and read another comic book. She might let you out again on Ground Hogs Day.

  • Ballot Measure 2 is an attempt to turn elections here in AK into Calvinball. Cheers –

  • There may be good reasons for Sen. Begich and Gov. Parnell to oppose the measure, but Sen. Begich certainly has a revealing history with winning elections with less than half the vote and losing when he had to get more than half the vote, which would be required if this change passes.

    Looks like his first wins for Anchorage assembly, Anchorage mayor and US Senator were with less than 50% and he lost for mayor in runoffs twice when 50% was required. Wikipedia has this:

    [Live link removed by moderator.]

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