APOC staff recommends fines for opponents of Alaska’s ranked choice voting

sign posted on green grass says "sign here" and says ranked choice voting "get rid of it"
Supporters of a petition to repeal ranked choice voting collected signatures at the Alaska State Fair on Labor Day 2023. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Employees of the Alaska Public Offices Commission have recommended fines totaling nearly $50,000 for people behind the drive to repeal ranked choice voting in Alaska.

In a formal report to the commission, the staff alleges that Art Mathias and anti-ranked choice groups he leads, including Alaskans for Honest Elections, violated multiple provisions of Alaska’s campaign reporting laws.

The report arises from the investigation of a complaint by the proponents of Alaska’s new voting system, which was adopted as Ballot Measure 2 in 2020 and deployed for the first time last year.

Attorney Scott Kendall, the author of Ballot Measure 2, alleged, among other things, that Mathias illegally funneled $90,000 in campaign contributions through a religious organization to disguise their source and obtain a tax deduction.

The APOC staff report concludes Mathias gave the money to a church-affiliated group knowing it would be passed on to Alaskans for Honest Elections, the group backing the repeal of ranked choice voting. That, the report says, violates laws against concealing the source of contributions or routing them through an intermediary. (The report says “staff has not considered Complainant’s assertions concerning unlawful tax deductions because that is an IRS issue, clearly outside of APOC’s jurisdiction.”)

The staff also found multiple instances in which it says the ranked choice voting opponents failed to register, to file timely and accurate reports of contributions and to disclose who paid for online videos and other election-related communications. The report says some of the allegations are unfounded and recommends dismissing several complaints against Phillip Izon, who, like Mathias, is a sponsor of the drive to repeal ranked choice voting.

The recommended fines were greatly reduced to reflect that Mathias and his associates are inexperienced with the filing requirements for groups seeking to influence the outcome of elections.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission is expected to consider the report when it meets on Sept. 28. 

Alaskans for Honest Elections is circulating a petition for a ballot measure to repeal Alaska’s open primary and ranked choice voting.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her atlruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Lizhere.

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