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Alaska election reform initiative set to become law, implementing ranked-choice voting

Alaska has voted by a narrow margin for an electoral reform initiative that will implement...
Alaska has voted by a narrow margin for an electoral reform initiative that will implement ranked-choice voting.(KTUU)
Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 4:56 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - An election reform initiative is set to become law in Alaska after the latest count of outstanding ballots.

With less than 1% of ballots still to be counted across Alaska, the “yes" vote for Ballot Measure 2 now leads by 3,756 votes or 50.5%.

The initiative will implement ranked-choice voting in Alaska, create an open primary system where the top four vote-getters move ahead to the general election, and make additional reporting requirements for some political campaigns.

“Whether they supported Ballot Measure 2 or not, all Alaskans should be proud today. This is what ‘We the people’ means – that voters, not the parties, have the power to chart our state’s future,” said Scott Kendall, counsel for Alaskans for Better Elections, through a prepared statement.

Brett Huber, the campaign chair for Defend Alaska’s Elections, said last week that Outside special interests should not be able to make “seismic changes" to Alaska’s voting system and not live with the consequences. “Win or lose, it’s clear Alaskans need to take back control of the citizen’s initiative process,” Huber said.

Alaska will be the second state after Maine to implement ranked-choice voting for state elections.

The system means that voters choose their top four candidates in order of preference. If a candidate gets more than 50% of the primary vote, that candidate wins. If no candidate wins a majority, the ranked-choice system operates until there is a clear winner.

Advocates of ranked-choice voting say it will encourage lawmakers to work for broad support instead of just from a partisan base. Critics say it could give a false majority in some races and mean some voters have effectively voted twice.

Lawmakers are able to repeal initiatives after two years and are able to somewhat amend them immediately. Kendall said he had spoken to legislators across the aisle and had heard broad support for the initiative.

In Maine, multiple lawsuits have been filed that have sought to strike down ranked-choice voting, but none have succeeded.

“It would be disappointing if special interests come in and want to overturn the will of the people,” Kendall said about the chance for litigation against Ballot Measure 2. “But, it’s absolutely something we’re prepared for.”

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