Borough Assembly delays vote on ranked choice voting in municipal elections

Published: Apr. 23, 2021 at 4:50 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - At a five and a half hour meeting of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly, the issue of ranked choice voting in borough elections took center stage.

According to Leah Berman Williams, co-sponsor of Ordinance 2021-17, “The winner of a ranked choice voting election is preferred by a majority of the voters.”

Public testimony proved largely negative, with a few exceptions.

In his testimony, resident Lance Roberts asked, “Why aren’t you waiting until 2022 to let people try it out before you try to foist it on local elections?”

Meanwhile, testifier Gary McLean said, “There’s a lot of distrust, and I don’t think we need to add any fuel to that fire by introducing a more complicated voting system.”

Elizabeth Siegel, who testified in favor of the ordinance, said, “Ranked choice voting is more likely to produce a political body that is not radical on either the left or the right, and we and most of the people we know are purple people. We’re not red people. We’re not blue people.”

Tensions ran high as some members of the assembly urged caution when considering the ordinance.

Aaron Lojewski, assembly member for Seat H said, “I think that the best plan here is to wait to see how it works from the state, so we’ll all have experiential learning.”

During the debate portion of the evening, Seat F assembly member Liz Lyke commented, “This last year has been my most miserable year being on this body. It feels like being part of a dysfunctional family.”

Jimi Cash, representing Seat E argued, “We have very strong, delineated lines of people who are strongly opposed to it, and people who think it’s the greatest thing ever. I think if we’re trying not to be divisive, then we’re doing the wrong thing.”

A version of the ordinance which would bring the issue onto the ballot in October will move forward.

However, the assembly did not reach a final vote.

They will continue this discussion on the substituted version next Thursday, April 29 at 5:30 p.m.

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