By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, May 2, 2023
StatesAlaska: Move to Repeal Ranked Choice Voting — In 2020, Alaska voters with only a 50.5 percent victory margin approved a top-four/Ranked Choice Voting election change that has had a major effect upon the state’s elections. Under the system, all candidates are placed on the same ballot with the top four finishers, regardless of party affiliation, advancing into the general election. In the regular vote, if no candidate receives majority support, the Ranked Choice process takes effect.
Supporters of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) were active in getting the measure passed correctly believing that the system would help her. A top-four structure would guarantee the senator advancing to the general election, thus bypassing what had proven to be her main point of vulnerability: a partisan Republican primary.
Now, conservative activists backed by Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor, and 2022 US Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka are mounting a signature campaign for a ballot initiative that would repeal the current system. The legislature is also considering legislation to do the same. Proponents of the repeal initiative must submit 26,705 valid registered voter signatures to qualify the measure. The group has already recruited the mandatory 100 petition sponsors and received initial approval from the lieutenant governor, meaning the initiative is officially qualified for signature gathering. The group’s goal is to place the measure on the 2024 general election ballot.
Montana: Top-Two Primary Could Return, Ranked Choice Voting Killed — Late last week, Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation to prohibit the Ranked Choice Voting system from being instituted in the state of Montana, joining several other states that have taken similar action.
Reports also suggest that proponents of legislation to use the 2024 US Senate race as a test case for the all-party jungle primary system that would qualify the top two finishing candidates for advancement into the general election may still be revived in the state House of Representatives before the current legislative session adjourns. The measure has already passed the state Senate but was tabled in a House policy committee. It is possible another committee could consider the measure and pass it to the floor for a vote in the session’s final days.
North Carolina: State Supreme Court Nullifies Previous Redistricting Ruling — In the 2022 election, Republicans converted two Democratic seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court, which gave the GOP a 5-2 majority. In the post-election session, the outgoing Democratic panel ruled that the state Senate boundaries were unconstitutional as was the North Carolina voter ID law. The congressional and state House maps are court-drawn. The new Republican court decided to reconsider these previous court rulings and on Friday reversed the directives.
This means the legislature can redraw all of the district maps and their chance of being upheld in this state Supreme Court is high. The new court and the legislature’s majority members are much closer in the way they view redistricting law and procedure. Therefore, we can soon count on seeing a new congressional plan that will likely break the 7R-7D current delegation’s partisan division. The new draw will inevitably add Republican seats to the congressional delegation at the likely expense of some of the less senior Democratic members.
The high court’s action could also lead to a moot ruling on a similar case currently before the US Supreme Court. If the federal justices take such action on the Moore vs. Harper political gerrymandering and judicial authority case, then we will not see a sweeping Supreme Court directive pertaining to political gerrymandering. This would, at least for the short term, continue the practice of awarding the final redistricting judicial authority to the 50 state Supreme Courts.
Mississippi: Gov. Reeves Increases Lead — A new Siena College poll of the Mississippi electorate (April 16-20; 783 registered Mississippi voters; live interview & online) projects Gov. Tate Reeves (R) expanding what was a closer lead over Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D). The ballot test yields Gov. Reeves a 49-38 percent advantage. In early March, Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy found the governor holding a 46-39 percent edge.
While the Siena College poll revealed the governor’s job approval index at 53:46 percent favorable to unfavorable, his personal popularity remains upside down. This latest data projects for him only a 42:45 percent positive to negative ratio. Gov. Reeves faces only minor competition in the Aug. 8 Republican primary and Commissioner Presley is unopposed on the Democratic side. Therefore, it is clear the two will face each other in the Nov. 7 general election.