Election Day

"I Voted" stickers and ballot envelopes await voters at the Fairbanks #1 Precinct Polling Station in the Fairbanks North Star Borough Administrative Building Tuesday afternoon, October 2, 2018.

At the advise of the Alaska Department of Law, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer rejected a ballot initiative application that sought to essentially overhaul the election system in the state of Alaska. 

The proposed 25-page ballot measure would increase requirements for campaign funding disclosure by outlawing the “use of dark money by independent expenditure groups working to influence candidate elections,” create a single primary election and institute a rank-choice voting system. 

If passed, the measure would have required voters to rank their support for candidates on a single ballot by marking them 1-4 based on preference, with 1 marking highest preference. 

The votes would then be tallied according to which candidate received the most first-choice votes. If no candidate receives a clear majority of first choice votes, the candidate with the smallest number of first-choice votes is eliminated and the votes are retallied. Any voter whose first choice candidate was eliminated will then have their vote tallied under the candidate they chose as their second preference. The process would continue until one candidate has a clear majority.

Rank-choice voting, sometimes referred to as preferential voting, is used in other countries such as Scotland, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson wrote in his opinion that the initiative should not be accepted due to its violation of the single-subject rule, which prohibits a ballot initiative from compiling multiple topics into a single measure.

“The single-subject rule serves an important constitutional purpose in the initiative context by protecting voters’ ability to have their voices heard,” Clarkson wrote in his opinion. “But 19AKBE, if certified, would force voters into an all or nothing approach on multiple important policy choices, all of which implicate their fundamental constitutional rights in different ways.”

Meyer wrote in a letter to the initiative sponsor that he rejected the proposal because it violates state law as outlined in Clarkson’s opinion.

“The Department of Law reviewed the application for compliance with AS 15.45.040 and recommends that I decline to certify this initiative on the grounds that the bill violates the single-subject rule,” Meyer wrote in a letter to the initiative sponsor. “Based on this recommendation, and in accordance with AS 15.45.080, I am denying certification of your initiative application.”

The group proposing the ballot measure was chaired by former Anchorage Independent Rep. Jason Grenn who served in the Alaska Legislature from 2017-18.

19AKBE was filed with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor on July 3. According to state law, lieutenant governor’s office has the following 60 days to review any initiative application presented to him. This process includes work with the Department of Law as well as the Division of Elections. The sponsors of the initiative have 30 days from the day of Meyer’s rejection to challenge his decision. 

Grenn told the Anchorage Daily News it is likely the group will appeal the rejection. 

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.