OPINION: Anti-ranked choice group should live up to its name

A state Superior Court judge this month upheld fines of more than $90,000 against a group that opposes ranked choice voting in Alaska. The political operation wasn’t fined by the Alaska Public Offices Commission for its views on the new voting system, but for cheating in its ongoing effort to overturn the voting system, which the public approved in 2020.

Back in December 2022, the director of the anti-ranked choice voting group Alaskans for Honest Elections and others established a tax-exempt church in Washington state “to promote Christian doctrines, establish and oversee places of worship, evangelize worldwide, support missionary activities” and to promote “the preservation of truth.”

And also, apparently, to funnel money back to the political campaign office in Alaska, without disclosing the donors. So much for preserving the truth.

Art Mathias, who led both the anti-ranked voting group in Alaska and the new “church” in Washington state, donated $90,000 to the church, which then sent the money to the political campaign in Alaska. The campaign is trying to get an initiative on the fall statewide election ballot to repeal ranked voting.

Alaskans for Honest Elections did not initially disclose the true source of the money, which the public offices commission determined violated state law. The group, along with Mathias, went to court, alleging that the fine violated their right to free speech. Besides, they told the court, the state law against hiding the identity of donors did not apply to the ballot initiative campaign to overturn ranked-choice voting.

The judge, however, wasn’t buying it and upheld all but a few hundred dollars of the fines.

Essentially, the group was caught running a stop sign, a red light and driving without a license — and they don’t want to pay the ticket.


Litigation continues in court over whether Alaskans for Honest Elections has gathered enough valid petition signatures to win a spot on the ballot to overturn ranked choice voting. The new system eliminated party primary elections, with all candidates running together in the primary and the top four advancing to the general election.

If the initiative makes it to the ballot, Alaskans will have the chance to vote to repeal or retain ranked choice voting. That’s how the system should work. Breaking the law to get on the ballot, hiding the identity of donors and cleansing the money through a pop-up church is not how the system should work.

Alaskans for Honest Elections should follow their name, behave honestly and pay the fines.

Larry Persily is a longtime Alaska journalist, with breaks for federal, state and municipal public policy work in Alaska and Washington, D.C. He lives in Anchorage and is publisher of the Wrangell Sentinel weekly newspaper.

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Larry Persily

Larry Persily is a longtime Alaska journalist, with breaks for federal, state and municipal service in oil and gas, taxes and fiscal policy work. He currently is publisher of the Wrangell Sentinel weekly newspaper.