Anchorage, Alaska (KINY) - A bipartisan group of community leaders, Alaskans for Better Elections, has submitted a ballot measure application.
The ballot initiative, according to a press release from the group, would increase transparency, participation, access, and choice in Alaska's elections.
If approved by voters in November 2020, organizers say the initiative would put an end to secret "dark money"— much of it coming from outside Alaska — that anonymous, big-money spenders use to influence our elections. It would also open Alaska's primary elections to all Alaskans, regardless of political party, and would give voters more choice and more voice by allowing them to rank candidates on the ballot.
“Our transparency laws are long overdue for a fix,” said Chair of the ABE ballot committee, Jason Grenn, former independent State Representative for District 22 in West Anchorage. “This will shine a light on the dark money that influences campaigns, and protect our right to know who is trying to influence our votes and our views.
"At a time when more money than ever is pouring into Alaska elections, Alaska’s election watchdogs, the Alaska Public Offices Commission, are overworked and under-resourced," the press release states. "APOC, the public, and the media struggle to keep up with the flood of money that now courses through our election system."
The group says the proposed initiative would stop the influx of dark money — political spending by organizations that do not disclose their donors — requiring additional reporting for groups that can receive and spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. These groups would be required to publicly report large donations in real-time, and disclose the true sources behind all such donations.
“Why should taxpayers pay to subsidize the activities of political parties?” said co-Chair of the initiative, Bonnie Jack, an Anchorage Republican, “This would save the state money and we believe the people deserve the opportunity to vote their conscience and not be restricted to a specific party vote.”
The initiative would also open Alaska's primaries to all voters. Under the current system, political parties get to choose who can vote in their primary elections. Voters, especially independent voters, are forced to pick one ballot or the other meaning that only a small group of primary voters end up choosing the candidates that appear on the general election ballot. The initiative would give every voter access to a single primary ballot that lists all candidates, boosting voter turnout and reducing partisanship in the process.
Finally, the initiative would allow voters to have more impact with their ballot, without having to worry about picking between the "lesser of two evils," by adjusting election ballots to allowing voters the option of ranking their first, second, and third choice candidates. This adjustment, called “ranked choice voting,” would ensure that every winning candidate has received a majority of votes cast. When votes are counted, if no candidate receives a majority of all the first-choice votes, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. If a voter’s first choice is eliminated, their vote transfers to their next choice. This process repeats until one candidate has received a majority of votes, and is declared the winner.
Co-chair of the initiative, Bruce Botelho, a Democrat and former Attorney General of the State of Alaska, as well as former Mayor of Juneau, said “We believe the people deserve the opportunity to vote their conscience without having to worry about wasting their vote. This is a common-sense reform that offers more choice and tells candidates to fight for my vote instead of just fighting against each other.”