Haines author Heather Lende’s recent letter in the Anchorage Daily News highlights the importance of updating the system we currently use to elect our representatives to reduce the hyper-partisanship that is increasingly dividing communities.
“The trauma of politics statewide, nationally and even in small towns, has both sides and the middle fearing that every time somebody else is elected, the winners will take all,” Lende writes. “That has got to change. And it can, at least here in Alaska, because we all love this land and the wild country, and basically want the same things in life.”
Lende, whose latest book, Of Bears and Ballots: An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics, details her experience plunging headfirst into public service as she ran for, and won, a seat on the Haines Borough Assembly in 2016 during a tense political climate, says the practical reforms contained in Ballot Measure 2 are a good starting point for improving Alaska’s elections and encouraging our elected leaders to focus on governing and addressing the state’s growing list of economic and social problems.
Lende recently joined national voting expert Dave Daley for an online discussion entitled “Civility and Civics” on the importance of making small updates to our political processes to address shortcomings before they overwhelm our democracy.
“Our politics has gotten pushed to the extremes on the left and the right,” said Daley. “It’s the way we fund campaigns, the way we choose candidates in partisan primaries, and the way that we elect them from uncompetitive districts. The beauty to me is that Yes on 2 understands each of those pieces and goes after each one of them with a specific fix,” said Daley, a senior fellow at FairVote and author of Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy, which chronicles citizen-led efforts to reform elections and uphold voting rights at the state level.
Daley said ranked choice voting, one of three reforms contained in Ballot Measure 2, has been proven effective at encouraging candidates to pivot away from negative ads and mud-slinging toward more issue-focused campaigns.
“Ranked choice voting is such a difference maker. To me, this is the single most important change we can make in our politics. We want to re-incentivize everybody to act differently, to campaign differently, to talk to everybody once again,” he said.
“It comes down to civility and civics – it doesn’t even come down to ideology or parties. It just comes down to the way that we speak to each other, especially when we disagree,” Lende says.
Watch the Better Elections team host a conversation with authors Heather Lende and David Daley.