A voter fills out their ballot in person at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library on Oct. 6, 2020. The library was the site of one of the voting centers during the City and Borough of Juneau’s by-mail municipal election. In the upcoming general election, Ballot Measure 2 will be on ballots in Alaska. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

A voter fills out their ballot in person at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library on Oct. 6, 2020. The library was the site of one of the voting centers during the City and Borough of Juneau’s by-mail municipal election. In the upcoming general election, Ballot Measure 2 will be on ballots in Alaska. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Vote no on Ballot Measure 2

Get out and vote no on Ballot Measure 2.

  • Tuesday, October 27, 2020 11:02am
  • Opinion

By Jerry Nankervis

If you haven’t already voted in the November election, please join me at the polls on Nov. 3 and vote no on Ballot Measure 2.

There are so many things wrong with this initiative, it is tough to address them all in a short opinion piece. To begin, the initiative is 25 pages long. Twenty-five pages of amended and new election law to digest. How many voters are going to read and compare the changes to existing law? Few. There are three major areas of focus in the measure: Switch to open (jungle) primaries, attempt to reduce the influence of “outside” money in Alaska elections, and switch to ranked-choice voting for state elections. Three big lifts bundled together in one initiative and put under the banner of “better elections.”

The supporters of this move are hoping the catch phrase and slick packaging campaigns will get you to make a decision in their favor. Better sounds better, right? If you repeat it enough, it becomes true? Not so in this case.

Open primaries: This measure seeks to go back to the way it used to be in Alaska, where you could vote in any primary regardless of your voter registration. This system was regularly abused when voters would cast their ballots for weaker candidates in the primary so their preferred candidate would have weaker competition in the general. The measure would allow candidates to be listed on the ballot as nonpartisan or undeclared even if they are not. Sounds deceptive to me. Supporters say these changes would allow anyone to run for office. Any eligible person with the desire to run can do so now under existing law.

Dark money: Ballot Measure 2 seeks to limit the amount of “outside” influence that occurs in Alaska elections, and increase transparency. Sounds good, until you dig a little deeper. Looking at the Division of Elections’ latest 30-day reports showed me that nearly $3.2 million dollars of the $3.5 million brought in to support this measure came from “outside” sources: Unite America, Action Now Initiative, Voter’s Right to Know, Represent Us, Action Now (founded by billionaires John and Laura Arnold, advocating for things like ranked-choice voting, eliminating bail requirements, redistricting, repealing obsolete constitutional provisions, supporting carbon emissions and soda taxes).

Ranked-choice voting: No longer in our state elections would we only vote for one candidate for one office seat. The time-honored method of voting for only one candidate apparently will no longer work. Now, we need four candidates, or more, for each seat and you get to rank your candidate choices in descending order. Proponents insist this is a simpler and better way to elect representatives. In a nutshell, ranked-choice voting means that a candidate with the most second place votes could be declared the winner.

Ranked-choice voting and the other proposed changes would modify 22 sections of our current elections law. It would require the state to purchase 137 new ranked-choice ballot counting machines and spend over $900,000 dollars to accommodate the change. Ranked choice does not allow for hand counting of ballots, a method that frequently occurs now with close elections. Proposed language says the election board may not count an inactive ballot and skipped ranking is considered an inactive ballot. Under the proposal, you would still be allowed to vote for only one candidate if you so choose, but by voting ranked, others would get more bites at the apple than you.

This ballot measure is far too complicated to be debated and understood adequately via radio ads, newspaper ads and YouTube inundation. The people proposing these changes are counting on their slick ads, catchy phrases and lack of legislative and open debate on the topic to enable their victory. They claim that people, not parties, should choose our elected officials. I agree!

People go to the polls and vote, not parties. That is how the system works and it does work, if you get out and vote. So, get out and vote no on Ballot Measure 2.

Jerry Nankervis resides in Juneau. He is a former member of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly.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 letter to the editor or My Turn .

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