The stealth partisan group that brought ranked-choice voting to Alaska is offering a training for candidates and campaigns on how to work the system.
Alaskans for Better Elections, which used dark money from outside the state to put Ballot Measure 2 on the 2020 ballot and convince Alaskans to vote for it, will now explain to people how the system works and how to “leverage the strategic opportunities they create.”
In traditional elections, voters pick just one candidate. With ranked-choice voting, they rate candidates in order of preference, 1-4. The ranked-choice results, sorted and reassigned by a computer algorithm, cannot be hand verified because of the complicated redistribution of votes. The system will require Alaskans to trust their vote tabulating equipment.
The training is via Zoom teleconference on Dec. 9, 9 am to noon. Register here: https://tinyurl.com/td7vhzr4
“Learn from the successes and failures of candidates who have run ranked choice voting elections,” the group says in its announcement.
Trainers will be Grace Ramsey and Maria Perez from Democracy Rising, the group that helped the Alaska Democratic Party run an internal ranked-choice voting presidential preference poll, rather than the former caucus system the party used to choose a presidential nominee in 2020. According to the notice, the two have trained candidates around the country.
The Alaskans for Better Elections group describes the training as nonpartisan, but the staff members for the group have deep ties to former Gov. Bill Walker and Democrat campaigns, with one of them being Walker’s former interim campaign manager.
The president of the board of the Alaskans for Better Elections Foundation is Cathy Giessel, a former state senator who was beat by Sen. Roger Holland and who is now a candidate to win back a seat in the Senate.
The foundation was created in January to funnel money remaining from the Ballot Measure 2 campaign and to bring in more dollars from Outside. The original group, which brought the initiative to the ballot and fought for its passage, was converted into an ongoing 501(c)4 tax-exempt nonprofit, which is essentially the same as the parallel foundation.
In addition to Giessel as president of the board, Alaskans for Better Elections Foundation’s board of directors are members linked to Bill Walker and anti-Republican political campaigns:
- Scott Kendall, former chief of staff to Bill Walker and mastermind of failed Recall Dunleavy drive, is the registered agent for both the Alaskans for Better Elections Foundation and for the nonprofit Alaskans for Better Elections.
- Bruce Botelho, a Juneau Democrat operative who was key to forming the Walker-Mallott ticket in 2014 and was part of his transition team, is vice president.
- Marna Sanford, Fairbanksian who lost to Republican Sen. Rob Myers in 2020, and signer of Recall Dunleavy petition, is a director.
- Daniel Volland, an optometrist who has recently become politically active.
In addition, Alaskans for Better Elections shares the same physical address of the Ship Creek Group (721 Depot Drive, Anchorage). Ship Creek Group is a political operative company that primarily works on campaigns for Democrats; the founder is John Henry-Heckendorn, former Gov. Walker’s campaign manager.
Shea Siegert, one of the two principals at Alaskans for Better Elections, is a former Ship Creek Group employee. Ship Creek Group’s Paula DiLaiarro is the Alaskans for Better Elections treasurer. Jason Grenn is a former lawmaker and Walker acolyte, and former client of Ship Creek Group.
Alaskans for Better Elections was a client of Ship Creek Group in 2020; so was Bill Walker, Democrat mayoral candidate Forrest Dunbar, Democrat mayor Ethan Berkowitz, Al Gross for U.S. Senate, and a host of liberal candidates and causes.
Register to attend the training at https://tinyurl.com/td7vhzr4.
Facts about ranked-choice voting and the new nonpartisan primary from the Division of Elections:
What is a Nonpartisan Top Four primary election?
There will be only one ballot, with all candidates regardless of political party or political group affiliation. Voters may cast a vote for one candidate in each race, regardless of voter’s political affiliation.
Only four candidates in each race who receive the most votes will advance to the general election. The primary election no longer determines the nominee of a political party or group.
What happens when there are less than four candidates in a race?
All candidates for that race will move onto the general election.
When is the first/next election the Nonpartisan Top Four primary election system will be used?
The August 16, 2022 primary election.
Will my registered political affiliation affect who I can vote for?
No. All candidates will be on the same ballot and all voters may vote for anyone regardless of registration affiliation.
Who can run in the primary election?
Any registered voter who meets the requirements of AS 15.25.030(a) and seeks to become a candidate in the primary election can file a declaration of candidacy. Primary candidates do not need to be a member of a political party or political group.
What happens if a potential candidate misses the filing deadline?
They cannot participate in the primary election but can file paperwork to run as a write-in candidate on the general election ballot.
Can a candidate with no party affiliation still run in the general election by petition?
No. Under the new law, the nominating petition process no longer allows for candidates to run in the general election using the nominating petition process. If a candidate did not appear on the primary election ballot or was not successful in advancing to the general election, they may run as an official write-in candidate as long as they file a letter of intent at least 5 days prior to the general election.
Is there a limit as to how many candidates can file for the primary election?
Will there still be a ballot measures only ballot in the primary?
No. With a nonpartisan primary, there is no need for a ballot measures only ballot.