Amidst all the noise surrounding this year’s presidential election, the battles for one of Alaska’s U.S. Senate seats, our lone House seat, as well as the many key state legislative races, it’s easy to forget about the initiatives on the ballot. One of the initiatives would have serious consequences for our essential and constitutionally guaranteed civil rights.
I am writing about Ballot Measure 2, a 25-page initiative to enact a San Francisco-style “ranked-choice voting,” new campaign finance laws, and officially endorse amending the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The meat of the initiative — ranked-choice voting — is riddled with problems, with “ballot exhaustion” ranking near the top. Ballot exhaustion is a term used to describe what happens when a voter does not rank all the candidates, ranks one candidate twice, or makes some other error. Failure to comply with these new, more complicated rules results in your ballot not being counted — effectively disenfranchising you. No longer will Alaska’s election system adhere to the time-honored “one person, one vote” tradition, which has served us well since territorial days.
The initiative process is a useful, democratic tool our state’s Founders placed in the Alaska Constitution to give Alaskans a method for passing laws when they feel their elected representatives are not adequately responsive. Unfortunately, this process is vulnerable to abuse and often hijacked by outside interests.
As a state with a small media market, it is relatively cheap for Outside billionaires to manipulate our election system. A few million dollars is an amount barely noticeable to them — but it is plenty enough to run a slick, statewide media campaign, even one that could do away with our essential rights — and that’s exactly what’s happening here.
More than 99% of the funding in favor of Ballot Measure 2 has come from the deep, dark pockets of Outside billionaires. So far, they have dumped $5 million into pushing the initiative with amusing ads claiming to do away with “dark money.” Initiative proponents are experts, mind you, on the topic of dark money, being one of the biggest beneficiaries. It is also noteworthy that the initiative exempts its own dark money backers from any new restrictions or hurdles, indicating that their designs for Alaska won’t end here. A “yes” vote will do little more than whet the appetite of these billionaires to direct more dark money to Alaska where they can wage proxy political battles on the cheap.
While the truth of Ballot Measure 2’s funding source should be enough for Alaskans to reject it outright, it only gets worse when we look at its substance.
Arguably more troubling, passage of Ballot Measure 2 would mean an official endorsement by the State of Alaska for restricting political speech by amending the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. For nearly 229 years, the First Amendment has served as a cornerstone for our nation’s experiment in self-government — ensuring that every American is free to speak, write, think and worship as they see fit. Those are rights I am not willing to compromise on, much less trust to Lower 48 billionaires.
The ultimate objective of Ballot Measure 2 is that proponents would like folks to be elected in Alaska that have not been successful being elected in Alaska. Their desire for a different result in Alaska and D.C. does not mean that Alaska’s system is broken. It isn’t. And as my grandfather always said, “If it ain’t broke, it doesn’t need to be fixed,” especially if it means gaming our sacred election system through Ballot Measure 2. Our system works quite well, and Alaskans are smart enough to vote for whomever they believe represents them best.
As a legislator during one of the most challenging periods in our state’s history, I am not unfamiliar with difficult choices. But I can tell you that in the battle for ideas between wannabe oligarchs in New York and California on the one side and Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson and Washington on the other, the choice is not a difficult one. I am a strong “no” on Ballot Measure 2, and I urge my fellow Alaskans to join me.
Senator Peter Micciche is a Republican member of the Alaska Senate representing Kenai, Soldotna, Seward, Nikiski, Funny River, Sterling, Cooper Landing, Hope, Crown Point, Moose Pass and Lowell Point.
• By Alaska Sen. Peter Micciche