Measure 1 gives voters more choices
Chip Wagoner and Jim Sykes
August 21, 2002
Elections in Alaska have changed significantly since
1990. There are now six political parties plus independent
candidates. That's because we Alaskans value our independence and
political choice. Yet our current election methods undermine this
most basic instinct of Alaskans for political choice. Now that more
candidates are competing for the same office, we continue to use an
electoral method where candidates can win with smaller and smaller
minority percentages. Not only that, but under our current electoral
system a vote for your favorite candidate actually can help elect
your least favorite in multiple candidate races.
Voters will have the opportunity to change this on
Aug. 27 with Ballot Measure 1. Measure 1 will give voters more
choices and liberate voters to vote for the candidates they really
like, and guarantee that elected officials will be supported by a
popular majority. It also will allow big tax savings.
Measure 1 will adopt a voting method called instant
run-off voting. IRV works like the regular run-off now used in
Anchorage and Fairbanks, but it doesn't require a second trip to the
polls. People vote for their favorite candidate, but also gain the
option to indicate runoff choices at the same time. Voters do that
by ranking candidates in order of our preference--first, second and
third. This way, if no candidate is the first choice of at least
half of the voters, a runoff count can be conducted without the need
for a costly second election.
Measure 1 will make more voters and their votes count.
With IRV, we will be able to vote for candidates we truly prefer
without "wasting" our vote, or worrying about "spoiler candidates."
It will empower voters to express their true political preferences.
Measure 1 will eliminate the current problem where a
candidate strongly opposed by the majority can win. Since 1990,
numerous candidates have been elected to municipal and state offices
without majority support, sometimes with as little as 28 percent of
the vote. That means 72 percent of the people preferred another
"Majority rule" is one of the foundations of our
political system, taught to us when we are schoolchildren. Yet too
often our current elections fail that test. By allowing voters to
rank their candidates, Measure 1 assures majority rule in a single
Measure 1 also can save cities that currently use
run-off elections a lot of tax dollars. Run-off elections are
expensive and a headache for voters, candidates, and administrators.
Anchorage's last run-off election had only a 7 percent voter turnout
and cost over $100,000. Fairbanks also spends thousands of dollars
on run-off elections. Measure 1 would give cities an option of using
instant run-off voting instead of a traditional two-round run-off.
The important goal of electing winners with a popular majority can
be achieved in one election, instead of two--by using instant
Ballot Measure 1 has the support of a broad
cross-section of Alaskans--liberals, conservatives, moderates, and
political parties from across the political spectrum. Millions of
voters in other places have used instant run-off voting for decades.
Utah Republicans use it to nominate congressional candidates.
Louisiana uses it for military overseas ballots. From Washington to
Vermont, state Leagues of Women Voters that have thoroughly studied
instant run-off voting have endorsed it. IRV has been repeatedly
tested for fairness and is widely recognized as a well-tested and
significant improvement in voting.
So who could be against this "good government"
improvement? The main opposition comes from political insiders who
know how to manipulate the existing system. They don't like
"majority rule," and have employed the usual scare tactics to
confuse people. They are saying things like it's "too complicated
and too expensive," or its "unfair" and "illegal." But all of these
claims are false.
Courts consistently have upheld instant run-off voting
because it complies with the "one person, one vote" principle and
all federal and constitutional requirements. And it's not too
complicated. Australians have been using instant run-off voting for
70 years, as have various universities and schools to elect class
officers. If Australians and schoolchildren can handle it, Alaskans
should do just fine. Ranking your favorite candidates is no more
difficult than ranking your favorite movies or sports teams.
Forty-thousand Alaskans signed the petition to bring
this important improvement to our Alaskan republic. Please vote yes
on Ballot Measure 1. For more information, visit www.alaskansforvotersrights.com.
Chip Wagoner is an attorney and former national
committeeman for the Republican Party of Alaska. Jim Sykes is a
long-time advocate for citizen and consumer rights and a founder of
the Green Party.