In the first ever statewide ballot measure for Instant Runoff Voting, proponents came up short August 27, as Alaska voters turned their thumbs down on Ballot Measure 1 by a 64 percent to 36 percent margin. Opponents prevailed with arguments that IRV is not easy to grasp and there had not been enough public education and debate on the proposal. The current system is good enough, according to the opponents, who found no compelling need for IRV.
There were also specious claims that by allowing voters to rank candidates, IRV violates the one-person, one-vote principle. Though not true and in fact refuted by courts of law, the charge counted as a strike against IRV among voters who had little opportunity to become acquainted with the concept.
Perhaps the greatest strike against the ballot measure was that it became tainted by partisanship. Conservatives largely lined up for it, while liberals mostly took up defensive positions against it. What should have been regarded as a good government reform was taken captive by partisan forces, undercutting trust in the central purpose of the reform proposal.
The Alaska result is in some ways an affirmation of the educational mission of FairVote Minnesota, which has urged public education and use in nongovernmental elections as important preparatory steps for successful adoption for public elections. Implementing alternative voting methods in home rule localities may also be an important preliminary to statewide adoption.
One bright spot in the Alaska campaign was the endorsement and support from Senator John McCain, a leading national political figure. Look for more leadership from him on this subject in the future. You can hear his recorded message to Alaska voters athttp://www.fairvote.org/irv/mccain.wav.
News reports on the election results
"Instant Runoff Voting falls short in Alaska," Center for Voting and Democracy, August 28, 2002.http://www.fairvote.org/press/alaska.htm
"Voters reject instant runoff system," by Tom Curry, MSNBC, August 28, 2002.http://www.msnbc.com/news/800049.asp?0dm=C21AN
"Preferential voting suffers solid defeat," Rachel D'Oro, Associated Press, published in Anchorage Daily News, August 28, 2002.http://www.adn.com/front/story/1678169p-1794934c.html
Opinions, editorials & news reports leading up to the vote
Juneau Empire editorial says yes to IRV: "Instant runoff voting pros outweigh cons," Juneau Empire, August 25, 2002.http://www.juneauempire.com/stories/082502/opi_edboard.shtml
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial says Alaska needs more debate and study of IRV:"A matter of preference," Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, August 25, 2002.http://www.news-miner.com/Stories/0,1413,113%257E7252%257E819317,00.html
Anchorage Daily News editorial says current two-round runoffs are good enough: "Instant runoff? No -- Ballot Measure 1: a solution in search of a problem," Anchorage Daily News, August 25, 2002.http://www.adn.com/opinion/story/1662296p-1779152c.html
"Voters in Alaska to decide on instant runoffs," Associated Press, Star Tribune, August 25, 2002.http://www.startribune.com/stories/484/3187490.html
"Instant runoff ballots work, mates," Dr. Benjamin Reilly,Anchorage Daily News, August 24, 2002.
An Australian political science professor goes fishing in Alaska and talks with the residents about his own country's experience with Instant Runoff Voting.http://www.adn.com/opinion/story/1655082p-1771973c.html