Since when have the Green and the Libertarian parties relied on a bunch of mainstream political insiders to fight our battles?
So imagine our surprise when we saw the opponents of Ballot Measure 2 claiming that the reforms proposed in the measure would hurt our two parties. If we believed for a second that they really wanted a fair shake for third parties and other independent thinkers, then we would say, “Thank you — but we’ve got this.”
The truth is, though, the political elite are less interested in protecting the voice of each individual than they are about maintaining their own power and continuing to keep everybody else out of the conversation. The current Alaska election setup is designed to heavily favor the two major parties, which makes absolutely zero sense in a state where 63% of voters do not identify as either Republican or Democrat.
In spite of that glaring statistic, it is nearly impossible for anyone without a D or an R next to their name to get past the primary, let alone into office. Oh, sure, you get your occasional Democrats disguised as independents, but Alaska’s elections almost guarantee a Republican versus a Democrat in the general election, with one or the other being the ultimate victor.
Ballot Measure 2 will finally give a voice to the nearly two-thirds of us who are muzzled by the current election laws. First of all, the costly and unfair partisan primaries will end, and all candidates will vie for Alaskans’ votes on an equal footing. Why was the state ever in the business of paying for party primaries in the first place?
Next, up to four candidates will move on from the primary to the general election, which will do away with the time-honored practice of voting for the “lesser of two evils.” We have all felt that sinking feeling of looking at a ballot and thinking, “I don’t want to vote for either of these bozos,” and in the end, we either hold our nose and vote for the one we hate less, or we don’t even vote. Ballot Measure 2 will give Alaskans more choice.
Another thing we both believe will benefit us smaller parties and independent thinkers is the implementation of ranked-choice voting, because it gives every Alaskan the license to vote for the candidate who best represents his or her views.
“Don’t throw away your vote,” is the classic warning you hear when you dare express a preference for anyone who doesn’t fit into the mainstream, the implication being that by voting for your chosen candidate, you may be allowing your least favorite candidate to sneak in with less than a majority. The ranked-choice voting proposed by Measure 2 will ensure that no candidate wins without a majority of the votes. So you can vote your conscience, and if your first choice gets beat, your vote can go to your second choice — and so on, until a winner emerges with over 50%.
Finally, the millions of dollars of dark money that pollute our elections and freeze out smaller-party candidates will get a spotlight shone upon them, which will be one more way of protecting Alaska’s independent voices.
Clearly, the forces behind the effort to stop Alaska ballot reform do not speak for the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, or any other independent voters in this state. They speak for protecting their own power and their ironclad lock on Alaska’s elections.
As the chairs of Alaska’s Green Party and Libertarian Party, we can speak up for ourselves, and letting all Alaskans speak for themselves is exactly what Ballot Measure 2 is all about. That’s why we strongly support Measure 2 and hope all independent-thinking Alaskans will join us in voting “yes” on Nov. 3.
Jon Briggs Watts is chair of the Alaska Libertarian Party and Robert Shields is chair of the Green Party of Alaska.
• Jon Briggs Watts and Robert Shields