As a lifelong Republican and supporter of open primaries, I was one of the Alaskans who sued the state of Alaska regarding our publicly funded closed primary system to ensure access for all voters. We won, but then the decision was overturned when California wanted closed primaries and used the U.S. Supreme Court to change how we vote up here too. We didn’t need this change from Outside then, and certainly don’t need to keep their system anymore. That is where Ballot Measure 2 comes in.
Alaskans remain a largely independent electorate. More than 62% of Alaskans are registered not as a Democrat or Republican, but some as third parties and a large majority are nonpartisan voters. The problem is that a voter can select only one primary ballot regardless of their registration, and thus cannot select a candidate from more than one of the two major parties.
With our current system, voters are unable to weigh in on at least half the candidates in every primary. This has led to greater division and depressed voter turnout. With open primaries, the voters, not parties, would select who went on to the general election. Measure 2 puts this power back in our hands, where it belongs.
Additionally, Measure 2 would save our state money every election cycle. We would only have to print one type of ballot, listing all the candidates. The current system is not working well and is not structured to meet the needs of most Alaskans. It is time for an update.
Measure 2 fixes this with its unified primary. Instead of each administration deciding how to interpret the law, inviting costly lawsuits, it would work very simply. All voters would be given one ballot type and could select the candidates they support regardless of the voters' party and the candidates' party. And remember, it would be far less costly.
We would have open, non-partisan primaries; ranked choice voting in general elections; and transparency when it comes to who is funding candidates. These all work together so that our elections system is set up for Alaskans. We Alaskans enjoyed the benefits of open primaries for years then they were taken away from us, benefits like larger turnouts and more healthy competition among candidates.
Open primaries would help reduce partisanship in a time when “liberal” and “conservative” are often used as insults instead of simple identifiers, and the gap between them seems to widen by the week. Open primaries would mean all voters in a district get the same ballot that lists all the candidates running for each race, so we can choose who embodies the qualities we most admire in a leader and who best represents our community’s values, not simply those of a political party.
If you are a “party animal,” don’t worry. An open primary system won’t take away partisan candidates. Parties can continue to endorse the candidate of their choosing and these nominations will be public and clearly visible on the ballot under the proposed measure. Voters can continue to vote for their party’s candidate, but now they would simply have more options.
I urge you to vote yes on Ballot Measure 2 and take back your right to select the candidates you want to represent you, regardless of their party and your party.
Bonnie Jack, a lifelong Republican, is a co-chair of Yes on 2 for Better Elections.
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