By Iris Samuels
Anchorage Daily News 

Palin first to sign petition to repeal ranked-choice voting


November 23, 2022 | View PDF

A new group has announced it will attempt to do away with ranked-choice voting in Alaska by ballot initiative, and former Gov. Sarah Palin was the first to sign the petition — before the outcome of her failed congressional bid ws final.

Alaskans for Honest Government, a political action committee that formed last month, hosted an event Nov. 17 where group organizers launched their effort to collect signatures to put the question of reinstating the state’s former voting system to voters on the 2024 ballot. Ranked-choice voting was adopted in Alaska by ballot initiative in 2020, and first used this year.

Six days before final results in Alaska’s U.S. House race would be known, Palin spoke to a crowd of several dozen people at a South Anchorage church, calling ranked-choice voting “whack” and promising to “fight for what’s right and to lead the rest of the nation in getting back to fair, free, transparent, clear elections.”

Ranked-choice voting has been found to be constitutional both by the Alaska Supreme Court and in federal court. It is used in congressional elections in Maine and Alaska, and in local elections in several cities across the country. A ranked-choice voting ballot initiative passed in Nevada this month, putting it on track to become the third state to use it in statewide elections.

Palin said she hadn’t given up on her hope for winning Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat, though she was far behind Rep. Mary Peltola — with the final count due Nov. 23.

The former vice presidential candidate was one of 48 candidates who ran in a special U.S. House election to replace former Rep. Don Young, who died in March. Palin received the largest share of votes in the 48-way primary in June, but lost the August general election to Peltola after the field was narrowed to just three choices.

On Nov. 8, Palin again faced Peltola, along with Republican Nick Begich and Libertarian Chris Bye.

Palin has made railing against ranked choice voting a hallmark of her campaign.

Ranked-choice voting and the new open primary system are credited by political observers for allowing Peltola to beat her Republican rivals in a state won by Trump by double digits in 2020. But they also point to Republican infighting and Palin’s high negative ratings as key factors in the U.S. House race that Peltola won.

Alaskans for Honest Government registered with the Federal Elections Commission in mid-October. In the week leading up to the election, the group spent $20,000 opposing Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the U.S. Senate race and Peltola in the U.S. House race. Additional information about the group’s donors and cash-on-hand was not immediately available, and group organizers declined to say who their current financial backers are.

The group also registered as an entity with the Alaska Political Offices Commission on Nov. 1, with Phillip Izon as the entity’s officer. The three-member initiative committee includes Izon, Jaime Donley and Art Mathias. At an event hosted at the Wellspring Ministries on Thursday evening — where Mathias is founder and president — the group’s leaders said they planned to submit the initiative petition to Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer by Nov. 30 — the first step to get the question put to voters on the 2024 ballot.

To do so, the group must first gather 100 signatures from qualified registered voters. Many of the dozens of audience members at the Anchorage event signed the petition. The group is planning several additional events in the coming days in the Mat-Su region and Fairbanks.

If certified by the lieutenant governor, the initiative group has a year to collect signatures from qualified registered voters. They must collect a number equal to at least 10% of those who voted in the preceding general election from places representing the majority of the state. Group leaders said they intended to gather more than 40,000 signatures and expected their effort would cost millions of dollars.

In 2020, the ballot initiative that put ranked choice voting in Alaska law was backed to the tune of millions by Outside groups, including Unite America and FairVote Action Fund, which advocate for voting reform nationwide and are funded by deep-pocketed individuals from out-of-state. Alaskans for Better Elections collected more than 40,000 signatures to put their initiative on the ballot. The measure passed narrowly by a margin of less than 4,000 votes, in a result that was confirmed by an election audit.


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