OPINION: Ranked-choice voting, Les Gara and Alaska’s future

I’m 17, and I’ll get to cast my first ballot this November. I plan to vote for Les Gara for governor, and I hope you do, too. I’m excited to vote, because not only is Alaska at a real crossroads politically, but this will also be our first ranked-choice election. While I’ve never voted before, Alaskans have never voted ranked-choice, so in some ways we’re all equally unpracticed. Allow me to share what I know: Many people have favorite candidates and second favorite candidates in these elections — ranked-choice voting means you don’t have to try to decode which one has a better chance to win. Basically, you can rank candidates like they’re mushing in the Iditarod — first, second, third and so on — on your ballot. Here’s how I’ll do it:

When I enter the voting booth on Nov. 8 to vote for governor, I’ll rank Les Gara first, then I can put another candidate second, and someone else third, if I want. If there’s a candidate on the ballot I strongly disagree with, I’m not going to rank them at all, because that can only help them. It’s important to know that if you want to vote the way you’re used to, for only one candidate, you still can. Having a second favorite candidate — and ranking them that way — is completely optional. This election will probably affect your personal life much more than the 2020 presidential election did — they’re important in determining the future of our state, so I hope this information helps you to express your political preferences.

No one else running for governor is as focused on Alaska’s future as Les Gara. Les knows that Alaskans need to invest in our own future instead of waiting on one-time payments from the federal government, as Gov. Mike Dunleavy seems to be. Investing in our future means investing in crucial infrastructure across the state to create jobs, lower the cost of power and heating and ease burdens on Alaska businesses. It also means strengthening Alaska’s schools.

Tens of millions of dollars have already been cut from our state’s education budget. I have personally witnessed the fallout in my own school. Over the past few years, it has often felt as if the state was one step away from demolishing our building and selling the drywall. Our schools have been forced to cut corners, and it’s not at all clear to my classmates that Alaska values their future. The cuts we’ve suffered were almost a quarter-billion dollars less than Gov. Dunleavy intended. Even Gov. Bill Walker cut almost $32 million while in office. Les Gara is a main reason they weren’t more extreme. He’s been fighting for smaller class sizes, statewide pre-kindergarten education, higher graduation rates, and ultimately more success for your children — and, if you’re my age, for you — his entire career. He has no intention of stopping.

Les Gara believes it’s wrong to give away billions of dollars in tax credits to oil companies: They get these tax breaks even if they decrease investment here and take billions in profits out of state. That money comes from our oil, it belongs to Alaskans, and it should stay in Alaska. Strong schools, a well-funded Permanent Fund dividend, construction jobs, growing the state economy: Every year we put these needs below those of multinational corporations and welfare for our wealthiest. No sustainable fiscal plan gives away money to those who don’t need it at the expense of senior citizens, children and the economy.

I hope you can use this information if you need to remind yourself about ranked choice voting as election day comes up. Remember, if worst comes to worst, you can vote for just one person like you’re used to. Then, you have the opportunity to decide your second choice and even your third.

Please consider voting for Les Gara. He wants the brighter future for Alaska that we all want, and he’s willing to do the hard work to get us there.


Daniel Fisher is a high school senior attending Polaris K-12 School in Anchorage.

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