Ranked choice voting opponents file petition in quest to overturn Alaska’s voting system

A group seeking to overturn Alaska’s voting system on Friday submitted signatures to the Alaska Division of Elections, a necessary step in their effort to put the repeal question on the 2024 ballot.

The embattled opponents of ranked-choice voting — recently fined over $94,000 by Alaska’s campaign regulatory commission — are seeking to use a ballot measure to overturn the state’s open primaries and ranked-choice general elections. The system was approved via a ballot measure by Alaska voters in 2020, and first used in 2022.

It is now up to the Division of Elections and the lieutenant governor’s office to count the signatures and verify they fulfill the state’s requirements to certify the question and place it on the 2024 ballot. In an initial count completed Friday morning, election workers tallied 41,895 signatures.

The opponents of Alaska’s voting system — who include Republicans disappointed by the losses of conservative GOP members in the 2022 U.S. House and Senate races — have been accused of bending or outright violating the state’s campaigning laws in their quest to put the repeal question on the ballot.

The $94,000 fine imposed on the repeal campaign leaders earlier this month was for several violations, including for funneling the majority of their funding through a tax-exempt church they formed in Washington.

In the final weeks of signature gathering, the group leading the effort — Alaskans for Honest Elections — was accused of using an Anchorage church as the base for a paid signature-gathering effort, in violation of state laws. The allegations came from a pro-ranked choice voting group called Alaskans for Better Elections. That group has more recently raised concerns that signature gatherers provided misleading information to Anchorage residents in their quest to gather signatures in the city.

The pro-ranked choice voting group sent a mailer to Anchorage residents last month with a scannable code leading to an online form that can be used to withdraw signatures on the petition if it was signed “in error.”


More recently, the group has been running ads on social media stating that “the people who might ask you to sign a petition to repeal open primaries and ranked-choice voting can’t be trusted,” and saying that “if you were misled into signing this petition,” there is an online form to remove one’s name.

Division of Elections operations manager Michaela Thompson said the number of people who requested to have their name removed from the petition will only be known after all the signatures are processed by the division.

Amber Lee, a communication consultant in Anchorage, said that she encountered a signature gatherer at the New Sagaya City Market in downtown Anchorage who told her the petition “was just to give people a chance to say if they liked it or not,” and that it was separate from the petition to repeal the voting system.

Phillip Izon, one of the leaders of the group to repeal ranked choice voting and open primaries, said in a phone interview Thursday “that’s not how we train our people at all, so that’s a volunteer making a mistake.”

“We don’t tell anybody to challenge people or try to discourage or encourage anyone to sign our petition books,” said Izon.

Rep. Zack Fields, an Anchorage Democrat who represents a left-leaning district in downtown Anchorage where the New Sagaya City Market is located, said in a press release Wednesday that “opponents of open primaries and ranked-choice voting are using misleading and false information.”

Izon said his group relied on 700 volunteers to gather signatures, and only 3,000 of the group’s roughly 42,000 gathered signatures were gathered by paid workers. Izon said he personally gathered 2,000 signatures since the group launched its effort in February. He said Friday that election workers rejected 10 out of the 650 signature booklets due to missing information.

The group’s reliance on unpaid volunteers stands in contrast to the paid signature gathering effort by a group seeking to raise Alaska’s minimum wage by ballot measure. That group spent more than $250,000 on paid signature gatherers to collect around 41,000 signatures.

The repeal group, Alaskans for Honest Elections, reported raising less than $150,000 since launching their effort in 2022, and only a fraction of that was spent on paid signature gatherers. Izon said Friday he does not intend to raise large sums from out-of-state funders to support the campaign, as ballot groups often do, even if the petition is certified.

The tally of nearly 42,000 submitted signature is above the minimum necessary threshold set at 10% of the votes cast in the last statewide election, or around 26,000. But the signatures must also represent a minimum percentage of voters in at least three-quarters of the state’s 40 House districts.

Izon said the group had succeeded in gathering the minimum necessary signatures in all but four districts. The missing districts are Districts 3 and 4 covering Juneau and Haines, along with 39 and 40 covering the North Slope, Northwest Arctic and the Bering Strait region. Izon said signatures were collected up until the last moment — including signature booklets that arrived by plane from Dillingham just hours before they were submitted.

It is now up to election officials to go through the signatures and verify that they meet requirements — including that there are no duplicates, that they come from registered Alaska voters, and that they meet the geographic distribution requirements. Alaskans with experience in submitting ballot measures say that there is an unavoidable error rate.

The state has 60 days to determine whether to certify the repeal question.

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Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The AP and Report for America and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at isamuels@adn.com.