Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File
“I voted” stickers await voters on Election Day 2022. That election was the first regular general election in Alaska to include ranked choice voting, which was narrowly approved by voters in 2020. Bills to do away with ranked choice voting have been introduced in the Legislature and a petition to put the matter before voters is circulating. However, a pro-ranked choice petition has been launched to show support for the state’s current elections system, which also includes open primaries.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File “I voted” stickers await voters on Election Day 2022. That election was the first regular general election in Alaska to include ranked choice voting, which was narrowly approved by voters in 2020. Bills to do away with ranked choice voting have been introduced in the Legislature and a petition to put the matter before voters is circulating. However, a pro-ranked choice petition has been launched to show support for the state’s current elections system, which also includes open primaries.

Pro-ranked choice petition launched

Signatures sought to persuade Legislature not to overturn RCV and open primaries.

With efforts to repeal ranked choice voting in Alaska getting most of the attention since last November’s election, supporters of the methodology and related open-primaries announced their own petition Thursday aimed at convincing state lawmakers not to support a repeal.

Ranked choice and open primaries were used for the first time in Alaska last year after being narrowly approved by voters in 2020, but petitions to put a repeal on the ballot in time for the 2024 election are circulating and bills returning to the old voting system have been introduced in the Alaska Legislature. The Legislature is allowed to overturn voter ballot measures two years after their passage.

The online petition released Thursday by Alaskans For Better Elections (not to be confused with the anti-RCV group Alaskans For Honest Elections) asserts the new voting methods are effective and widely supported.

“We Alaskans believe election reform is working to restore power to the people and strengthen democracy,” the petition declaration states. “Efforts to repeal the election system put into place by voters in 2020 are contrary to the express will of the Alaskan people and will reinstate the dysfunction of a closed primary system.”

But the latter claim isn’t necessarily supported by current evidence.

An Alaska Survey Research poll in January by Ivan Moore, a supporter of ranked choice voting, found 53% of respondents favored a repeal while 47% were opposed.

“These numbers show the reality: the original passage of RCV was by a very narrow margin and any idea that ‘once we have an RCV election, everyone will love it’ is not the case,” Moore stated when the poll results were published.

The pro-RCV group, on its petition form, claims 85% of voters polled during the first-ever ranked choice election last August said filling out ballots was simple and that 99.8% of ballots were correctly filled out. The group also states races were more competitive, had a more diverse candidate pool and the winners are working more cooperatively in bipartisan efforts.

Alaska’s results in both the August special election and November general election, which saw relatively moderate candidates such as U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski prevail over challengers such as Sarah Palin and Kelly Tshibaka, drew favorable reactions from many national political entities. But while efforts to implement ranked choice voting in some states such as Minnesota are advancing, other states such as South Dakota are moving toward bans.

The petition to repeal ranked choice voting in Alaska, certified in January with Palin as one of its most prominent backers, needs nearly 27,000 valid signatures (and set minimums in every voting district) in order to appear on the ballot.

Tshibaka, following the November election, launched the nationwide group Preserve Democracy to oppose ranked choice voting and to advocate for other election reforms. In a Twitter message Thursday, claimed “19,000 super voter Republicans did not vote in November 2022. We need to explore the question, ‘Why did Alaskans stop voting?’” Election analysts have stated the doubts expressed by Tshibaka and Palin about the integrity of the process kept many of their supporters from casting ballots.

Voters in Alaska reversing their decision in 2020 by putting another measure on the ballot appears to be the repeal method most likely to succeed, since repeal bills filed in both the House and Senate before the start of the legislative session have been dormant so far.

Rep. Sarah Vance, a Homer Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, has called repealing ranked choice a “No. 1 issue” for the Republican-led House majority. Senate President Gary Stevens, a Kodiak Republican, has said the issue is not a priority for his 17-member bipartisan majority.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com

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