As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, with 245 of 441 precincts reporting across the state, the unofficial results for Ballot Measure 1 were 53,550 votes saying “no” to the referendum, a repeal of Senate Bill 21, and 51,484 votes saying yes to the repeal.
Votes on the referendum by district were not yet available.
Eileen Becker of Homer remained optimistic that the “no” votes would prevail. However, from her conversations with voters, she believed many lacked an understanding of the ballot measure. Becker was critical of the 32-pages devoted to the ballot measure in the state’s ballot measure pamphlet.
“People didn’t read that. It was very confusing,” said Becker. “I think it created more division than it should have.”
Larry Smith, who helped organize a “vote yes” rally in Homer in June, said early results were “a great disappointment to ‘vote no’ people to have to put up with the repeal being close, so whatever the outcome actually is, it sends a very significant message that the belief in the producers’ arguments is kind of faltering.”
Watching as election updates were posted online, Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said, “It looks like it’s going to be a squeaker one way or the other.”
The vote followed a campaign for which opponents, funded primarily by BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon, “spent north of $15 million” in advertising, according to Frank Mullen of Homer who also helped organize Homer’s “vote yes” rally.
Sue Mauger, at a Homer community dialogue on the subject in July, said the ballot measure came down to a question of Alaskans’ trust in the oil industry.
The ballot measure’s complicated title was “an act relating to the oil and gas production, tax interest rates on overdue taxes and tax credits.” Small wonder when Bill Walker, independent gubernatorial candidate, was in Homer in July, he said if a vote had been held then, “‘I don’t understand’ would win by a landslide.”
Senate Bill 21 was brought to the Legislature by Gov. Sean Parnell. He said it was a way to increase oil production and investment dollars in Alaska’s oil industry. Parnell said it balanced the tax credit system established by ACES, Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share, put in place during Sarah Palin’s term as governor.
Having passed the House, the legislation passed out of the Senate in March 2013, on an 11-9 vote. Among those voting for it were Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, a former mayor of Soldotna, commercial fisherman and an employee of ConocoPhillips, and Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, also a ConocoPhillips employee. Micciche and Meyer’s participation in the vote was seen as “two oil companies casting their votes, which many of us think was an unethical act, a conflict of interest,” said Vic Fischer, a member of the Vote Yes! Repeal the Giveaway nonpartisan group, when Fischer visited Homer for a “vote yes” rally in June.
Palin also has spoken out in support of repealing Senate Bill 21.
“We own the energy sources per our Constitution, and we violate our state’s blueprint that creates security and prosperity when we wave the white flag and give in to every demand of multinational corporations doing business up here. … We must repeal this SB21 boondoggle on Tuesday,” said Palin on her Facebook page.
Looking at how much had been spent to stop the repeal and awaiting the final results of Tuesday’s election, Mullen was hopeful.
“Passion and good sense might prevail,” he said. “We’ll find out shortly.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.