Commentary: Vote yes on 2 for fair elections

As the 2020 general election approaches, “What can I do?” is a question I’m hearing, and thinking myself, a lot over these past few months. Two suggestions to offer are: Make a plan to vote, and vote “yes” on Ballot Measure 2, Alaskans for Better Elections.

By “make a plan to vote,” I mean either request an absentee ballot now so that it can be mailed in time, vote early at your regular polling place if early voting is offered, or be absolutely certain that you will be able to vote at your polling place. We all have experienced those days when we plan to do something, only to get to the end of the day having forgotten, or had some other demand take over our plans for that day.

Ballot Measure 2, Alaskans for Better Elections, is all about making voting more fair, and more representative. The initiative would allow open primaries, which means members of one party can vote in another party’s primary. (Isn’t it possible that you could support a candidate who isn’t from the party with which you generally affiliate? I changed my affiliation from “undeclared” to “Republican” to vote for Sarah Palin in the Republican primary for governor because I thought she would do a better job than then-Gov. Frank Murkowski.) Ballot Measure 2 also calls for the disclosure of the source of campaign contributions so that voters can understand what influences or interests a candidate might have.

And the measure would allow ranked-choice voting in Alaska, also called “instant run-off” voting. We’ve all responded to multiple choice surveys in which we’re asked to rank a series of items or actions in order of preference, and ranked-choice voting is the same process. Then ballots are counted in rounds until one candidate receives at least 50 percent of the votes for that office. For example, if there are four candidates, with none receiving 50 percent of the votes, the candidate in last place is eliminated. The second-choice votes of those who voted for that person as their top choice are distributed among the remaining three candidates, and more run-off rounds are counted if necessary, until one candidate receives at least 50 percent of the votes.

You might hear the term “ballot exhaustion,” which can occur in ranked-choice voting. In cases where a voter has ranked only candidates that did not make it to the final round of counting, the voter’s ballot is said to have been exhausted.

This process of taking first, second and third choices into account makes for a more widely representative expression of voter preferences. Our current system gives you one choice, and you’re done. If your choice didn’t get elected, you don’t get another chance to say who should represent you.

I am passionate about voting. For starters, it’s one thing that every single American, from all corners of this sprawling, amazing country, has in common. We all get to vote. I remember when Blacks in South Africa finally got to vote, not that long ago, in 1994: people waited in line for three days in some places for the right to participate in democracy. But there is no such thing as “perfect” or “finished.” The technology and functions in our cars, our homes and our communities continue to evolve, so why not our voting practices? Can’t we refine how our voices are expressed at the ballot box to reflect our choices more accurately?

Please consider supporting Alaskans for Better Elections and vote “YES” on Ballot Measure 2!