Efforts to repeal ranked-choice voting (RCV) in Alaska are proving confusing, and chaotic — just like RCV itself. But a disturbing question lies just beyond the pro-RCV and anti-election lobby smoke bombs: Does the Alaskan government have a tacit hand in silencing concerned citizens?
Ranked-choice voting is profoundly complicated to explain, which in itself should be a giant red flag. It is a proposed change to our voting system pushed nationwide by some Republican operatives as well as left-wing organizations determined to influence election outcomes through process changes — funded by politically power-hungry billionaires (see Gehl and Arnold funding).
Instead of voting for a single candidate of their choice, the RCV system has voters rank each candidate in order of preference, which can often mean ranking both Democrat and Republican candidates. If no candidate manages to acquire more than 50 percent of first-choice votes in the first round of voting, the candidate who places last is eliminated, and his or her votes are redistributed to the voter’s second-choice candidate. This complex process — which continues until a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote — is prone to error and has often led to some voters having their ballots discarded.
Five states have banned RCV, and the American Legislative Exchange Council has created model legislation (the “Save Act”) to make it easy for others to follow. The Republican National Committee also officially opposes RCV.
The end game for ideologically progressive billionaires seems to be eliminating party preference politics so their cash-based influence outweighs the will of voters. All the benefits they claim for RCV are a lie.
Such is the case in Alaska. RCV was passed in 2020 when proponents misrepresented its dangers to voters, hiding them in the weeds of a “ban dark money” bill. What’s more, one of its early purposes was to enable Sen. Lisa Murkowski to keep her Senate seat — which worked as planned, with Democrat voters able to boost the not-so-conservative Republican.
In Alaska’s August 2022 special election to replace Rep. Don Young, two Republicans (Sarah Palin and Nick Begich) and one Democrat (Mary Peltola) were running. In the first round, 60 percent of Alaskan voters chose a Republican. However, because of the math involved in turning secondary choices into first choices, Peltola won.
Got it? No? Alaskans didn’t either, and a group of citizen patriots started a campaign to repeal the muddle that is RCV. In November 2022, Alaskans Art Mathias and Phillip Izon sponsored a citizen petition to repeal ranked-choice voting by filing an application with the Division of Elections in Alaska for petition approval.
Mathias and Izon reached out to the Alaska Public Office Commission (APOC) for guidance and were officially informed they were pursuing a “referendum” and not an “initiative” (as they believed) and were therefore not subject to certain registration and reporting requirements. The petition application was approved by the Alaska Division of Elections in January 2023.
Mathias, Izon, and their team started a nonprofit called Alaskans for Honest Elections Inc. (AHE) to lead the signature-gathering effort. They had already created a nonprofit foundation called Ranked Choice Education Association Inc. as a national platform for education about the dangers of RCV.
After previously being assured they were compliant with state law, they received notice in February 2023 from APOC informing them their project had been incorrectly categorized; it was an “initiative” and therefore subject to immediate registration and reporting. APOC also fined them for “non-compliance” for actions they took while operating under its very guidance.
This government decision triggered aggressive pro-RCV action against the citizen petition. Alaskans for Better Elections (ABE) is a pro-RCV group that helped usher RCV into Alaska with out-of-state donations from the usual left-leaning, anti-election-integrity billionaires. Just as Mathias and Izon’s group received the noncompliance notice, ABE filed a complaint accusing the organization of a creative laundry list of retroactive violations.
Mathias and Izon’s appeal to APOC was heard on Nov. 16, but the APOC delayed its decision to as late as February 2024. The Alaskan government also allegedly punted a complaint filed by Izon against ABE.
All of these delays and procedural complaints have allowed ABE to harass Mathias and Izon personally and viciously and have obstructed signature-gathering by Alaskan citizens. Alaskans for Honest Elections received another ABE complaint on Dec. 4, which demanded an emergency hearing to stop signature-gathering efforts. Mathias and Izon had to participate in a hearing on Dec. 6 with less than 24 hours to read the 200-page complaint and prepare their defense.
Ranked-choice voting was not supposed to be on trial during this hearing. The citizen’s right to collect signatures on a ballot measure was the issue. But you’d never have known it. The lead counsel for this hearing was former Murkowski staffer Scott Kendall, who helped pass ranked-choice statutes into law in 2020.
Kendall is also a senior adviser to the Institute for Political Innovation, the pro-RCV Gehl organization. Arguably, his interest was not the complaints made against the signature collection; it was the collecting of signatures itself — as in, stopping it.
In this initiative process, there should only be two sides — one proposing the repeal of RCV, and one opposing it. The government should be a neutral arbiter of procedure and compliance. Yet by inserting itself into the process of citizens having their voices heard and countenancing petty procedural complaints that have no bearing on the merits of RCV, the administrative agencies of the state are having a direct effect on whether Alaskans who don’t want RCV can organize and get their message out to voters.