ANCHORAGE -- A ballot initiative to create statewide runoff elections in Alaska died at the polls Tuesday night.
With more than 70 percent of Alaska's 446 precincts reporting, 64 percent of voters were rejecting the measure, which called for adopting a new method of voting.
The initiative sought to make Alaska among the few states with some sort of preferential voting system. Utah uses instant runoff elections for congressional candidates in primaries only. Louisiana's overseas ballots use the system for all races in primary and general elections.
The measure would have eliminated Alaska's current plurality-vote elections, in which candidates with the highest vote win. In their place would be preferential voting for future federal and most state elections.
Gubernatorial races would have been exempt because the Alaska Constitution specifies a plurality vote.
The instant runoff process, more common in local elections and overseas, would allow voters to list their top choices for an office in descending order.
If no candidate received more than 50 percent of the first-choice vote, the lowest vote getter would be defeated. Then the second choice votes of voters who picked the losing candidate would be added to the totals for the remaining candidates.
The process would continue until one candidate received more than 50 percent.
''We're not discouraged,'' Anchorage attorney Ken Jacobus, one of the initiative's sponsors, said Tuesday night. ''I'm sure the idea will be resurrected in the future sometime. It's the right thing to do. We're just sorry Alaskans did not decide to be the leader on this.''
The Alaska League of Women Voters opposed the measure, saying there was too little public debate about it and too many potential problems. League President Cheryl Jebe said preferential voting violates the principle of one person, one vote.
Jebe said the measure was too confusing and too costly to implement. That it bombed with voters was no surprise, she said Tuesday night.
''Alaskans are not ready to change their method of voting,'' she said. ''This would have been a drastic change, with consequences we can't even begin to fathom.''
Jacobus said the initiative failed because the public didn't understand the concept behind it.
''Basically, it would have brought a majority vote without expensive runoff elections at tax payers' expense and it would allow minority parties to vote their conscience,'' Jacobus said.
Alaska has six recognized political parties and a long history of independent voters.
Besides the Alaskan Independence Party and Democrats and Republicans, the state recognizes Libertarians and the Green and Republican Moderate parties.
Nearly 52 percent of the state's registered voters classify themselves as undeclared, nonpartisan or members of political parties other than the six recognized state parties, according to the Alaska Division of Elections. The state has 114,357 registered Republicans and 71,597 registered Democrats.
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