The Yes on 2 for Better Elections campaign hosted a webinar, “Diversity And Power In Elections” to explore the ways Ballot Measure 2 will increase diversity and inclusion in Alaska’s elections, and ultimately our representation.
According to the Alaska Division of Elections, although 40% of Alaska’s population identifies as Indigenous, Black, People of Color (BIPOC), they make up only about 16% of winning candidates. Non-Native BIPOC candidates face the worst of it: nearly 90% of candidates have lost every election they have run in. Alaskans deserve a government that more fully reflects the diversity of experience and thought of its citizens, and a system that works for all. That’s why such a diversity of supporters have announced that they’re voting Yes on Ballot Measure 2, including numerous Alaska Native and BIPOC leaders, Tanana Chiefs Conference, and the League of Women Voters of Alaska.
Panelists in the “Diversity and Power in Elections” webinar emphasized that systems reform is necessary in order to break through the barriers holding back women, people of color, young people, and other historically marginalized groups from getting involved in politics. They also discussed frustration with the ways our current system disincentivizes candidates of color to run, for fear of pulling votes away from those with a greater chance of winning, and reinforces the imbalance in our elected officials. Ranked choice voting, one of the three electoral reforms Ballot Measure 2 will advance, is a system that will equalize power and encourage greater voter participation in Alaska.
“Research from places that use ranked choice voting show that it mitigates barriers to representation that often prevail in single-winner or plurality systems. It does this by eliminating the problem of vote-splitting. So you often have multiple women and candidates from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities who can run without worrying about spoiling the election,” said Mohit Nair, Partnerships Director for FairVote Washington. “Your vote and your voice both matter very much under this system.”
“Ballot Measure 2 is like a three-legged table. Without one leg, the table falls down and does not function as a table. All three components work together to give power back to Alaskan voters,” says Dalecia Young, with the Yes on 2 for Better Elections campaign. “Ballot Measure 2 opens up primary elections and ranked choice voting will help us ensure that people who hold seats of power are winning with the majority support of Alaskans, not a minority support of Alaskans. Outside money is not new in any part of Alaskan’s politics, or our country’s politics. All campaigns seek out allies and like-minded groups to find funding for their campaign, whether it is a ballot initiative or a candidate. With Ballot Measure 2, big money donors won’t be a secret anymore.”
“Originally, shining a light on dark money drew me to Ballot Measure 2. It blows my mind that there are no enforced regulations that are put into place to help us, the voters, become better informed about who is funding these candidates and who is helping to drive their decisions. I think it is so important to get the dark money out of politics,” explained Kimberly Waller, CEO of Women’s Power League of Alaska, going on to reject the notion put forward by opponents of Ballot Measure 2 that ranked choice voting would be too confusing for historically marginalized communities. “People of every color know how to make choices. We know what it’s like to make our first choice, make our second choice, even make our third choice; it is not confusing to me… Choice is extremely important.”
Studies have shown that voters overwhelmingly understand ranked choice voting and find it easy to use, yet opponents of Ballot Measure 2 push inaccurate claims that Alaskan voters would not understand how to rank their candidates in order of preference from 1 to 4. “The biggest misconception I’ve heard about Ballot Measure 2 is the idea that it is too complicated for people to understand. It’s disingenuous to suggest that Alaskans don’t understand that there are problems with our elections. I think most voters are pretty savvy and can understand that,” says Jonathan Taylor, lifelong Alaskan and Former UAA Student Body President.
Anchorage is one of the United States’ most ethnically diverse cities with more than 100 languages spoken in the city’s streets and schools, and the issues we face – especially in a time as unique as a global pandemic and social justice movements – differ greatly. Right now, we need elected officials who understand these differences and can work together to address them all.
Event moderator Kimberly Waller said, “Voters like myself believe election reform is long overdue, and Ballot Measure 2 presents a unique opportunity for real change. With ranked choice voting, elections are more transparent, and candidates and voters are empowered to stick by their beliefs and vote their conscience. Different kinds of candidates are encouraged to run, especially women, minority, and third-party candidates because they can appeal to voters who don’t feel stuck with a binary choice. Diversity in democracy helps all voters, regardless of party, and represents our voice in America’s democratic process.”
Ballot Measure 2 would improve Alaska’s elections by creating a single unified primary ballot open to all voters, eliminating dark money in campaign financing, and instituting ranked choice voting in general elections. Together, these common-sense updates to Alaska’s elections will give voters more voice, more choice, and more power. Better government starts with better elections.