U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka and former President Donald Trump stand on stage during a July 2022 rally in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)

U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka and former President Donald Trump stand on stage during a July 2022 rally in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Tshibaka is not a credible opponent of ranked choice

Preserve Democracy is a non-partisan group that claims to be “devoted to protecting election integrity.” Its CEO, president, and treasurer is failed U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka. Last week, the staff at the Alaska Public Offices Commission recommended Preserve Democracy be fined $16,450 for failing to register as a campaign entity prior to advocating for the repeal of Alaska’s ranked choice voting system.

Like any violation of campaign laws this should be taken seriously. The bigger problem, though, is Tshibaka hasn’t atoned for her role in undermining public trust in our elections.

Before I get to that, let me qualify my position on ranked choice voting. I wasn’t a proponent of it. Runoff elections used by the Municipality of Anchorage and the State of Georgia are better systems.

However, I voted in favor of adopting ranked choice because the initiative included having nonpartisan primary elections. I supported that because there are far more Alaskans registered as nonpartisan or undeclared than Republicans and Democrats combined. The initiative to repeal ranked choice would also do away with that.

Had Alaska’s 2022 primary been a partisan election it’s highly likely that Tshibaka would have beaten incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski and been the Republican candidate on the general election ballot. If Murkowski decided to mount another write-in campaign, as she did successfully in 2010, Tshibaka’s odds of prevailing would have been better than competing against her in a ranked choice vote. But she most likely would have lost in a runoff with only her and Murkowski on the ballot.

Almost immediately after losing the election, Tshibaka launched Preserve Democracy. She claimed ranked choice was responsible for the low voter turnout and called it “a political weapon and an emerging threat to our democracy.”

But the biggest threat to democracy stood on the stage beside her in July 2022.

In a brief trip to Alaska to endorse her and Sarah Palin, who was running for Alaska’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Donald Trump gave an hour-long speech in which he made numerous references to the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. With that as a backdrop, he said ranked choice is “a total rigged deal just like a lot of other things in this country.”

Now if you’re trying to encourage people to vote in an important election, telling them that they’re rigged is the wrong message. Those who trust him might conclude it’s a waste of time and energy to vote.

Also, consider that the majority of Alaskans who voted in the 2020 election believed ranked choice would be better than the system in place at the time. Trump was basically saying we’re foolish or complicit in some kind of corruption.

His Anchorage speech was an echo of one he gave during a January 2021 rally in Georgia where he endorsed two Republican U.S. Senators facing a runoff election. “There’s no way we lost Georgia” he said at the start of his speech. “That was a rigged election.”

A mere two of the 74 minutes he spoke were dedicated to touting the candidates’ credentials.

And although he repeatedly told the audience why it was so important for them to vote, he ended with a 15-minute rant about the “tens of thousands of illegal votes cast and counted.” He even made the ridiculous allegation that the Dominion voting machines used in Fulton County had a “93.67% error rate in the scanning of ballots.”

While Tshibaka has never explicitly endorsed Trump’s endless stream of lies, during her campaign she furthered them by arguing “the allegations that came up in the 2020 election simply haven’t been looked into.”

That itself is a bold-faced lie. In the two states with close races, audits and recounts confirmed Trump lost. Judges in more than 60 court cases heard and dismissed his allegations. In one, a Trump appointed federal judge stated “calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and proof. We have neither here.”

If Tshibaka wants Alaskans to believe she’s defending election integrity she needs to find the courage to publicly state that Trump lied in 2020 and continues to do so. Until she does that she has no credibility to judge the merits of ranked choice.

• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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