This September, our nation celebrated the 233rd anniversary of the signing of our Constitution, the best and most consequential political document in human history. Framed by our Founders, amended to enshrine our most cherished rights, further improved to expand liberty to all following the bloodiest war in our history and in the 20th century, the Constitution has endured as our guide in this experiment in self-government.

Now, Ballot Measure 2 – an initiative backed by Outside billionaires – would do away with some of the basic principles behind this great charter.

The American conception of republican government is one where the people rule. We do not have kings or emperors. We elect our representatives and, when we are unhappy with how they govern, we can replace them.

Currently, that process is simple and straightforward. Every Alaskan is entitled to one vote and has the right to exercise that vote for whomever they want. If the billionaires from New York and California pushing Ballot Measure 2 have their way, however, Alaska’s “one person, one vote” model will come to an end. In its place, will be a complicated new scheme of ranking candidates.

The winners under this new scheme will be the insiders – those with the most time, resources, and know-how to game the system. The losers will be everybody else. If you are not interested in playing along with their new game, and only prefer to vote for one candidate, then your ballot is at risk of being discarded entirely.

Not satisfied with simply destroying an election system that has worked well since our nation’s founding, the initiative’s backers also inserted a provision into the measure to amend the First Amendment of the US Constitution to restrict political speech. In other words, Ballot Measure 2 is more than a poorly written, 25-page scheme, backed entirely by Outside billionaires; it is also thoroughly un-American.

The US Supreme Court, deferring to the text and original meaning of the First Amendment, has historically defended political speech when either state governments or the federal government have made attempts to restrict it. Backers of the initiative want to change all that. They believe we should give government the power to determine the quantity and quality of political speech allowable in this big, diverse country, and become more like the rest of the world where individual dissent can be crushed by those in power.

America is exceptional in many ways, but in no small part for the strong protections we place on the freedom of speech and the way we understand our relationship with government. Government does not grant us our rights – our rights are ours by nature and we give government limited powers to exercise its duties, none of which include policing what we are permitted to say about politicians.

Alaska is home to more Veterans per capita than any other state in the Union, and Alaskans know the high price of freedom and understand that freedom is a fragile thing, that we must always be vigilant in its defense. If we fail to protect the hard-won rights we enjoy today – paid for with the toil, blood, and treasure of past generations – then past achievements will have been in vain.

This November, as Veterans and proud Alaskans and Americans, we are urging our fellow citizens to vote no on Ballot Measure 2. We must not give away our basic rights – to vote and to speak our minds about those in power. Those rights are not for sale.

On this 233rd anniversary of our US Constitution, let us reflect on the sacrifices that were made by those who came before us and all do our part to ensure this experiment in self-government lasts another 233 years.

Charlie Huggins is a retired US Army Colonel, Army Ranger, and a former President of the Alaska Senate. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and multiple Bronze Stars with Valor for his service in Vietnam.

Becky Huggins was a US Army Major who piloted H-1 “Huey” helicopters. She is currently Principal of American Charter Academy public school in the Mat-Su Valley. Residents of Wasilla, the couple are the proud parents of three US Army Officers: Chad, Hallie, and Cody.

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