Launch of campaign to repeal ranked choice voting draws a crowd in Anchorage

A man with glasses speaks behind a podium while standing in front of an American flag.
Art Mathias speaks to voters at an Alaskans for Honest Elections event on Feb. 16, 2023. (Elyssa Loughlin/Alaska Public Media)

A few hundred people met at a south Anchorage church Thursday night to kick off a signature drive aiming to get rid of ranked choice voting and go back to the way Alaska used to elect candidates.

The new system, which Alaskans used for the first time last year, pairs an open primary with a general election that allows voters to rank up to four candidates.

Art Mathias, a longtime Anchorage resident and founder of Wellspring Ministries, is a sponsor of the repeal effort. He told supporters that ranked choice puts the entire country at risk.

“Literally, seriously at risk,” he said. “If we don’t replace rank choice voting, we will never elect another conservative, and we will only have Outside corporations coming up and buying our candidates and buying our elections.” 

Mathias said he’s donated $100,000 to the effort, and the campaign has raised $400,000 from out of state. 

Fans of ranked choice say it empowers citizens to vote their conscience, without worrying that two candidates they like will split the vote.

The system tends to favor consensus candidates and lessen the power of political parties. It’s not clear, though, that ranked choice puts conservatives at a disadvantage to liberals. Last year, Alaska re-elected its Republican governor and elected 32 Republicans to the 60-seat Legislature.

Ranked choice changed the outcome in only three Alaska races. In two of those, the tabulations boosted Republicans. In all other races, the candidate who got the most first-choice votes kept the lead, even after the votes that went to losing candidates were redistributed according to the voter’s choices. 

Mathias and other speakers at the kickoff event put the repeal campaign in culture-war terms, mocking the left for its embrace of transgender people.

“They keep preaching that a man can get pregnant until we believe it. You believe it?” Mathias asked, drawing a chorus of nos. “How absurd can this be? And we can’t let it go. We got to stay engaged. We got to get engaged, or it’s gonna get worse. How many pronouns do you call yourself?”

Other speakers included Republican fundraiser Michael Alfaro, a North Carolinian who found success raising money for Donald Trump’s presidential runs. Alfaro had said former Gov. Sarah Palin was to be the keynote speaker but she didn’t attend. Her former campaign advisor, Jerry Ward, said she was on a flight and couldn’t arrive in time.

Organizers will need 27,000 signatures to get the initiative on the 2024 ballot. 

A poll by Alaska Survey Research last month found a majority of Alaska voters would repeal ranked choice if the question is put to them in a future election.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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