Alaska will have a new election system in 2022.
With all votes counted as of Wednesday afternoon, Ballot Measure 2 won by 3,807 votes. Just over 1% more Alaskans voted yes with 50.55% saying yes and 49.55% saying no.
“This is a victory for all Alaskans regardless of their political leaning. We now have an electoral system that lives up to Alaska’s independent streak by saying ‘to hell with politics, let’s do what is right for Alaska,’” said Shea Siegert, the campaign manager of Yes on 2 for Better Elections.
The measure will overhaul Alaska’s voting system. First, it will create open primaries, where candidates for any party can run and voters from any party can vote. The top four vote getters, regardless of their party, will advance to the general election.
Second, in the general election, the measure will institute ranked-choice voting. This means that voters will rank their four choices in order of preference. Voters can rank as many or as few candidates as they want.
When the ballots are counted, if one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, the election is over.
But if no one does, then the candidate who receives the fewest votes will be eliminated. Then ballots that ranked the last-place candidate first will be redistributed to the other candidates. If a candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, the election is over. If not, the recounting process starts again. It runs until one candidate gets a majority of votes.
Third, the measure will institute tougher campaign finance rules. It would require any entity that gets more than $2,000 in a year from a donor to disclose all receipts from the donor and their source. Right now, groups that fund campaigns can use intermediaries to hide who exactly is donating money to political campaigns.
The measure will apply to all statewide races, contests for the Legislature, and U.S. House and U.S. Senate races. It will not apply to city or borough elections. It will also not affect presidential primaries, but Alaskans will use ranked-choice voting in the 2024 election.
Maine is the only other state in the nation that uses ranked-choice voting. No other state has the same suite of reforms as those in Ballot Measure 2.
Backers of the measure think it will cut down on polarization and encourage more middle-of-the-road solutions.
“These reforms will make our politicians answerable to the voters. They will also reward, rather than punish, bipartisanship,” said Scott Kendall, legal counsel for Yes on 2.
“The nation’s greatest state now has the nation’s best election system, and, as a result, Alaska’s brightest days lie ahead.”
Kodiak voters seemed to agree. House District 32, which includes Kodiak, voted in favor by 58%. Support was especially strong in absentee ballots, with 65% of absentee voters voting yes.
It will take a year for the Division of Elections to set up the infrastructure needed to make the changes. According to the state’s election pamphlet, the Division of Elections will need to buy 137 ballot tabulators for precincts that currently count by hand. It will also need to run a public education campaign to inform voters how the new system works.