The lead for the ballot measure that would remake Alaska’s elections system continued to build Saturday with the latest update from the Alaska Division of Elections.
The yes votes for Ballot Measure 2 gained an additional 425 votes Saturday, for a lead of 1,566 votes, or 50.24%.
As of the end of Saturday’s counting, 164,735 votes were cast in favor of the measure and 163,169 were cast against it.
About 18,000 ballots remain to be counted, according to an email from Gail Fenumiai, director of the Division of Elections, just before 5 p.m. Saturday.
Counting is scheduled to continue Sunday.
The measure, put on the ballot through the citizens initiative process, would bring Alaska a ranked-choice system of voting, establish open primary elections and change campaign disclosure law to reveal the true source of so-called “dark money” expenditures.
Measure 2 was losing by 10,000 votes on Wednesday but was winning by nearly 500 votes at the end of Thursday’s counting.
The lead has grown steadily since then.
Saturday’s increase puts the ballot measure 0.48% ahead. There is no automatic recount in Alaska, but the state will pay the cost of a requested recount if the margin between the yes and no votes is less than 0.5 percent.
If the measure ultimately does gain voter approval, the election system will change dramatically.
The state would have an open primary system, sometimes referred to as a “jungle primary” — all candidates would appear on the same ballot regardless of party affiliation. The top four candidates would advance to the general election.
California has a nonpartisan primary in which the top two finishers advance to the general election. Florida voters this month rejected a measure to establish a top-two nonpartisan primary election. Louisiana has a form of jungle primary.
Alaska would be the first state in the nation to establish a top-four primary election.
Currently, the Republican Party of Alaska has a closed primary, meaning only Republican candidates appear on a separate Republican ballot. Only voters registered as Republican, undeclared or nonpartisan can vote a Republican ballot.
Alaska Democratic Party and Alaskan Independence Party candidates now appear together on a separate primary election ballot. Any registered voter, including voters registered as Republican, can vote this ballot under current law.
The ranked choice voting provision of Measure 2 would apply only to general elections.
Under Measure 2’s ranked choice provision, a voter would rank one or more candidates in the order of preference. A candidate winning a simple majority would win the office; the ranked choice provision would not be triggered.
If no candidate gained a majority, however, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes would be eliminated and the votes of people who chose that candidate as their first choice would have their second-choice votes distributed instead.
The process would continue until one candidate obtained a majority.