Ballot Measure 2 supporters ‘cautiously optimistic’ as initiative’s narrow lead doubles

Photo courtesy: MGN
Photo courtesy: MGN(WLUC)
Published: Nov. 13, 2020 at 8:00 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - An initiative that would significantly alter Alaska’s election process is on track to become law, with the “yes” vote for Ballot Measure 2 picking up a narrow lead on Thursday that has continued to increase in the latest round of election results released on Friday.

If the same trend continues among outstanding ballots, Ballot Measure 2 will implement open primaries in Alaska, a ranked-choice voting system and additional reporting requirements for campaign donations.

“We remain cautiously optimistic because it’s a slim lead, still within that, you know, window of an automatic, state paid for recount, and we want to make sure that all the votes are counted,” said Shae Siegert, the campaign manager for Yes on 2 for Better Elections, during an interview Friday morning.

At the time of the interview, the initiative was on track to pass with a lead of 497 votes. The latest round of results has it passing by 1,141 votes, with thousands of ballots still left to be counted.

If Ballot Measure 2 passes, Alaska would become the second state after Maine to implement ranked-choice voting in its state elections.

“At the end of the day, it really just makes the deciders of elections, the Alaska voters,” Siegert said. “It gives Alaska voters the most voice, choice and power in the elections and takes power back from the special interests.”

He said seeing voter support for the measure after a hard-fought campaign is encouraging, and he believes the campaign’s messaging was particularly successful in rural Alaska.

“What we’ve seen is just an outpouring overwhelming support from, you know, predominantly the rural regions of the state, and saying, ‘It’s time for a change. We need to take back that power that we once had with open primaries, with ranked-choice voting, with ending the practices of dark money.’ These are really important topics,” said Siegert.

Siegert said it would be naive to not expect there will be legal challenges if the measure passes, but said he is confident Ballot Measure 2 is constitutional and will hold up under legal scrutiny, an opinion echoed by Scott Kendall, the lead counsel for Alaska for Better Elections.

“I don’t think they have a good case, but that’s their right to bring it if they do,” Kendall said Friday, of those who are opposed to the initiative.

If passed, Alaska’s Constitution prohibits the Alaska State Legislature from immediately repealing the new law or altering the way it functions.

“What we’ve seen in other states is, or other cities, is that they pass something like rank-choice voting, and people who are elected under the current system don’t necessarily want to change that system, and so they repeal it before it goes into effect for an election,” Siegert said. “The beauty of our ballot measure process in Alaska is that elected officials cannot change this for the next two years. It’s actually outlined in our Constitution and then our statutes, and so this would go into effect and we would have this process in place for 2022, if it passes.”

The measure is also aimed at improving transparency for voters, requiring both donors and campaigns to identify the source of donations over $2,000.

Siegert said this could change campaign funding, as donors will have to decide whether they want to publicly put their name next to a candidate or campaign.

“If it passes, then we get to see. We get to lift up that curtain of financial contributions to campaigns and we get to peer into this system that is kind of, you know, mysterious to a lot of folks,” said Siegert.

Defend Alaska Elections – Vote No on 2 released an emailed statement from campaign manager Brett Huber Friday evening, taking aim at Yes on 2 for Better Elections' funding, saying the campaign in support of the measure outspent his campaign by a ratio of at least 14 to one.

“While many thousands of votes remain to be counted, it appears that Ballot Measure 2 has taken a narrow lead. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, I am proud of the more than 161,000 Alaskans who stood shoulder to shoulder with us to resist a scheme by Lower 48 billionaires to throw our entire election system into chaos,” the statement read.

Huber went on to say, win or lose, Alaska’s citizen’s initiative process needs reform.

“Alaskans deserve new guardrails around how initiatives can be brought forward, and the closure of loopholes created by Measure 2 on its own dark money sources,” the statement read.

If Ballot Measure 2 becomes law, ranked-choice voting will be implemented in state executive, legislative and congressional races and for general elections, including the presidential election.

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