Backers of election run-off plan say they've got enough names

Posted: Sunday, July 09, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Backers of ''instant run-off'' voting say they have more than enough signatures to put the idea on a statewide ballot in 2002.

They're waiting to turn them in, however, partly because they want to hit more voters up for signatures at summer fairs, spreading the word about their cause.

''We want to get as many signatures as we possibly can,'' said Ken Jacobus, a Republican Party activist who's coordinating the petition drive targeting legislative and congressional, but not gubernatorial, elections.

There's no rush. It's too late to get the issue on this fall's ballot, and the group has until October to file the petitions in time to get on the 2002 ballot.

The group probably has nearly 35,000 signatures, Jacobus said, well beyond the 22,716 required.

Instant run-offs would work like this: Voters faced with multiple candidates would rank their choices.

If no one received a majority, the candidate receiving the fewest votes would be eliminated. Those who voted for that candidate would have their votes reassigned to their second choice.

That process would continue until one candidate received more than 50 percent.

''The bottom line is, it will ensure and provide for a majority vote in Alaska,'' said Chip Wagoner, Republican National Committeeman for Alaska.

Primary sponsors of the initiative represent three political parties in Alaska -- the Republicans, the Green Party and the Alaskan Independence Party.

Republican candidates could benefit because they often split the conservative vote with candidates from smaller conservative parties.

Small parties could benefit because voters now fear they'll be wasting their vote by favoring a candidate with little chance of winning, Wagoner said.

Democrats oppose the change. Chris Cooke, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said it would be an expensive, unnecessary change that has not been tried in any other state.

''I don't know that you'll get any more satisfactory outcomes under this system than under the current system,'' he said, noting that a candidate who received more first-choice votes than any other could lose out.

He also questioned the fairness of such a system.

''The people who vote for the lowest vote-getters ... are getting their votes counted two or three times, whereas other people who vote for one of the two top contenders get their votes counted only once,'' Cooke said.

Wagoner said the system does not violate one-person, one-vote requirements.

The system is used in Australia and London and by some municipalities and school districts in the United States, although no other states have adopted the system, Jacobus said.

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