Reinventing Alaskan Elections

  • 10x growth in campaign reach

  • 18% Republican support

Partnership with Alaskans for Better Elections

In 2020, Citizen Data was commissioned by Alaskans for Better Elections to support the establishment of a new election system that gives Alaska’s diverse population more voice and representation in government. The initiative sought to enact open primaries, ranked choice voting, and donation disclosures to reduce the influence of out-of-state money.

On behalf of the initiative, Citizen used its unique data and audience modeling process to identify a broad coalition of ‘cross-partisan’ support including Alaska Natives, under 45 year old voters, women, and right-leaning voters who felt dissatisfied with their current representation. Both the official Republican and Democratic Party organizations opposed the measure due to it introducing more small “d” democracy into the choosing of leaders; however, with Citizen Data’s support, the initiative was able to attract a diverse coalition of support among voters themselves and won by a tight 1 percentage point margin. The voter outreach and turnout among the broad, diverse coalition was a difference maker.

" "Put more power in the hands of everyday Alaskans, and give all voters a voice, regardless of party or background."

Key Message: Alaskans for Better Elections

Importantly, after the election, Citizen worked with Unite America, and other institutions, to evaluate what worked and where opportunities exist to scale this new system across the nation. Using their unique audience and civic engagement data, the measure determined that the “non-partisan” framing and nature of the initiative was its best selling point, and helped the measure attract support across racial, socioeconomic, and political divides.

The overall impact of this reform is being realized in real-time in Alaska. The state elected its first woman and Alaska Native to the U.S. House with the new system in August 2022, and other states seek to adopt a similar system in their states; Citizen combines its deep knowledge of this reform and its unique data to scale electoral reforms across the country.

"I would go with Citizen again because they worked with us to create a dataset catered to our needs — which rivaled that of the major parties — in a matter of 3 months, and continued to provide consultation through Election Day and campaign closeout. The continued consultation is something I have rarely seen in the 30+ campaigns I've worked on.

Shea Siegert, Campaign Manager

The Story of Alaskans for Better Elections

Alaskans for Better Elections is a group made up of ordinary Alaskans from the left, right, and center of the political spectrum looking to improve Alaska’s democracy.

In 2020 they set out to pass reforms aimed at reducing partisanship and electing leadership committed to moving Alaska forward.

With those in power unlikely to police their own influence, a ballot measure was put in front of Alaska voters.

Ballot Measure 2 included three commonsense election reforms: ending the secret influence of dark money, creating a single unified primary open to all voters, and empowering voters in the general election to rank candidates in order of preference.

The Challenge of Passing Comprehensive Elections Reforms

Before Ballot Measure two, campaigns in Alaska that did not have the support of a major party therefore did not have the access to the level of data and information as their competitors.

The lack of data resource compared to partisan outfits was only compounded by the fact that finding and reaching supporters is an especially tall task in Alaska, as the state’s size makes it difficult to campaign in a traditional manner.

1.04 Registered Voters Per Square Mile

How does a group like ABE find that ideal audience then and reach it with the perfect messaging? That’s where Citizen Data comes in.

Why Alaskans for Better Elections Chose Citizen Data

Citizen’s established reputation in the non-partisan and pro-democracy spaces made us the logical choice for the unique work to be done in Alaska.

To pass, Ballot Measure 2 would need support across a broad range of partisan preferences. Our unparalleled understanding of unaffiliated and conservative voters — further entrenched in 2021 by our American Right Democracy Roadmap — meant we were the right partner to ID the voters in those segments that could be persuaded to support these vital reforms.

In addition to our issue expertise, Citizen’s customer service won over the ABE team.

" "Citizen provided the tools necessary to level the playing field with the party-loyal/party-supported campaigns, agreed to help develop our in-state staff who were new to the political data scene, and were always open to in-state knowledge."

Shea Siegert, Campaign Manager

How Citizen Data Responded

Citizen got right to work organizing, cleaning, matching, and expanding ABE’s data set across the board, growing the organization’s reach rapidly by 10x. Establishing our credibility early on positioned us well to ramp up our involvement as the campaign got closer to Election Day.

We quickly grew into the organization’s targeting firm of record, helping them to shape their persuasion and ad strategies to focus on the people power message that would inspire those who are least represented in the system and will be more served by the reform: non-white, young, female, and independent voters.

"Without Citizen we would have been a month behind on setting up our initial database. The Citizen Data team brings time saving solutions that inevitably equate to cost savings & desired results electorally."

Shea Siegert, Campaign Manager

Operating at the lightning fast pace of an ever-evolving campaign, we were able to quickly leverage data to create more-accurate state-level models, determine outreach techniques, and keep the campaign up to date with accurate surveying of the election landscape through its hectic final stages.

Some examples include:

  1. Vote method modeling
    1. Showing the anticipated difference in voting method by ideology, Citizen prepared the campaign to target liberal-leaning voters likely to vote by mail with GOTV messaging earlier in the campaign. The realization being that conservative voters should be targeted closer to when they would be voting in-person on Election Day.
  2. Last-minute texting campaign
    1. When ABE received money late in the game for text outreach, Citizen was able to provide them with a targeted phone list for outreach. Consistent with our modeling by vote method, we could direct them to the conservative-leaning voters more likely to vote in-person on Election Day.
  3. Election Day volunteer resource allocation
    1. Citizen was able to model and rank the most important polling places to allocate volunteer resources to on Election Day
  4. Ensuring confidence in the election
    1. With more people than ever before voting by mail in 2020, Alaska’s rules for counting ballots came into the spotlight. The state releases the results for the in-person vote and mail ballots received at least three days prior to Election Day immediately. The remaining absentee ballots do not get counted and made public until 10 days later. In the past, the portion made public over a week later made up just about 5% of the vote. In 2020, it was more like 35–40%.
    2. We were able to model whose vote had been counted and whose remained to be. Using that, we predicted that Ballot Measure 2’s initial deficit would disappear. Alaskans for Better Elections and its allies were able to take this message to the public, getting ahead of any attempts to label the final results as a fraud.
  5. Exit polling style research
    1. In the days leading up to and immediately following the election we gathered data on why people supported or opposed the measure and which media sources and messages had the most impact.

The Results

The campaign successfully mobilized a cross-partisan coalition to ultimately approve the measure, with the final support base consisting of 55% Democrats, 26% non-partisans, and 18% Republicans.

The non-partisan perception of the ballot measure was its greatest strength, and leaning into this feature will be key to attracting support from voters across parties in future campaigns. It’s possible that even more focus on the nonpartisan aspect of the ballot measure in Alaska may have resulted in more support from not only the non-partisan voters that primarily make up Alaska’s electorate, but also from the Republicans needed to push the measure through.

  • 55%
    of Democrats
  • 26%
    of Non-Partisans
  • 18%
    of Republicans

Do you have a reform — or group of reforms — you’re looking to pass at the district, city, or state level? Get in touch to see how Citizen can bring these services that helped pass Ballot Measure 2 in Alaska to your target area.

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