Here’s what Alaskans for Better Elections is seeking to fix…
We live in a moment where our elections are awash in secret money, where transparency, access, and voter participation are overshadowed by divisive partisan politics all while our government watchdogs are under-funded and under-resourced.
This initiative seeks to reform our elections to put more power in the hands of Alaskan voters.
What is Dark Money?
The term “Dark Money” refers to political spending by an organization that is not required to disclose its donors or whose donors are obscured by one or more intermediary donors that mask the true source of the money. When these organizations donate to a group that makes independent expenditures, the public does not know where the money influencing their elections is coming from. Dark money allows special interests, many of them from out of state, to wield incredible influence in Alaska elections.
What is an Independent Expenditure?
Thanks to Citizens United, a 2010 Supreme Court decision that overturned limits on corporate political spending, there is no limit to the amount of money that someone can spend to influence an election. As long as the spending is not coordinated with a candidate’s campaign, any person or organization can spend unlimited amounts of money on "independent expenditures" aimed at influencing the outcome of an election.
Our Solution: Stronger Disclosure Requirements
All individuals and committees will have to immediately disclose the name and the true source of all donations over $2,000.
What are “open” versus “closed” primaries”?
An open primary means that a voter can vote in any primary election, regardless of his or her party affiliation. A closed primary means that a voter can only vote in the primary election affiliated with their party registration.
What is the makeup of the Alaska electorate?
Alaska isn’t a partisan state. An overwhelming 57% of voters are registered non-partisan or undeclared, about 24% Republican, and 13% Democrats. Reforming our primaries gives independent voters the choices they deserve.
What primary system does Alaska use?
In Alaska, the parties decide who can vote in their primaries—even though it's state funding that’s paying for them. Under this system, moderate and non-partisan voters are forced to pick one ballot or the other; a voter cannot support their preferred Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, while also supporting an Independent or Democratic candidate for governor. With almost three fifths of the Alaskan electorate not identifying with either party, this system creates an ultimatum for voters and contributes to low turnout in both primary elections.
Our Solution: Improve our Primary System
Instead of public funds subsidizing the political parties, an open, nonpartisan primary would allow all voters, regardless of party, to use a single ballot that lists every candidate for office. This would increase voter choice and engagement, and boost turnout in both the primary election and the general election. Nonpartisan research groups have found that open primaries have higher turnout rates than closed primaries, and that when a voter has an opportunity to vote for a candidate in the primary, they are much more likely to show up to support them in the general election.
What is ranked choice voting?
In a ranked choice voting (RCV) election, voters are able to rank candidates in order of choice - 1st choice, 2nd choice, and so on. When the votes are counted, if a candidate has a majority of 1st choices, they win - just like today. But if no candidate receives a majority of 1st choices, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and voters who ranked that candidate 1st have their vote instantly go to their 2nd choice. This process continues until a candidate is elected with a majority of voters’ support.
Would my grandmother understand how to do this?
RCV is as easy as 1-2-3, and makes democracy more fair and functional. Everyday you rank your choices—if a restaurant is out of your first choice meal, you choose your second choice. It’s the same on an RCV ballot.
It is a simple change to the way we vote that can increase voter participation, increases civility in campaigning, and allow more independent candidates to run for office. In Maine’s 2018 election, RCV elected an Independent, who would have been much less likely to win had the traditional first past the post system been used.
After Minneapolis’s first ranked choice voting election, a post-election survey conducted by Edison Research found that 95% of voters found the ranked ballot “easy to understand.” In the 2013 elections, this included 82% of voters of color, 81% of voters without a college education, and 81% of voters aged 65 and up. Additionally, 88% of voters ranked their ballots and more than two thirds were familiar with RCV before going to the polls. The effective ballot rate was 99.95%, meaning that virtually every voter filled out his or her ballot correctly and had their vote counted.
Is anyone else doing this?
According to Ballotpedia, RCV has been enacted or used for political elections in 25 states. The State of Maine uses RCV to elect candidates to the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and in party primaries for state offices. Major political parties use RCV in four states. Five more states use Ranked Choice Voting for military and overseas voters to participate in runoff elections: Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina.
Eighteen U.S. cities have enacted Ranked Choice Voting for their local elections: including Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN; Oakland and San Francisco, CA; Takoma Park, MD; Basalt and Telluride, CO; Memphis, TN; Santa Fe, NM; Sarasota, FL; Ferndale, MI; Amherst, MA; Cambridge, MA; and many more.
RCV has been implemented at local city or county levels in seven states so far, with another five states approving but not yet implementing RCV in local elections.
According to FairVote, over 50 colleges and universities in the United States use ranked choice voting to elect some or all student government positions. That means that over 700,000 students across the country are empowered with more choice in electing student leaders.
How much would it cost?
With RCV, elections are cheaper and easier. Runoff elections waste time and money, and decrease voter turnout. Utilizing ranked choice voting would eliminate the need to hold a costly, low voter turnout runoff election. Campaigns can be shorter and cheaper, and voters only have to go out to the polls once.
Many local offices are elected in two rounds of elections; either a primary winnowing the field to two followed by a general election, or a general election followed by a runoff if no candidate has a majority. According to FairVote, any election that takes place outside of the context of the general Election Day often suffers from very weak and unrepresentative turnout, while raising issues of vote splitting in the first round and the possibility of disenfranchising overseas and military voters. Ranked choice voting saves money when replacing runoff elections.
Our Solution: Ranked choice voting (RCV) will improve our election system and save money.