Alaska: A Cautionary Tale

Alaska is witnessing a push to repeal ranked choice voting (RCV), with proponents advocating a return to a partisan primary. The November 2022 election cycle saw the downside of a “Non-partisan Pick One Primary” and RCV, voter suppression and subverting the actual will of the people.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom announced that sponsors of the anti-RCV initiative gathered nearly 37,000 signatures, exceeding the required threshold by about 10,000. This move marks a substantial step forward for those seeking to overturn the state’s RCV system, which was implemented in 2020. The collected signatures span 34 of Alaska’s 40 voting districts, further bolstering the initiative’s legitimacy.

Non-Partisan Primary

This initiative came after an election where many felt the will of the people was subverted through confusion and voter suppression. In the 2022 Primary Election 22 candidates entered the race for US Representative. Eight of those ran as Republicans and one as Democratic. The top two Republicans received 107,714 votes, about 56% combined while the Democrat received 70,295, about 37%. 

The candidate receiving the next highest number of votes was Tara Sweeny, a Republican with 7,195 votes, about 4%. That looks like a 60% advantage for Republicans going into the General Election. But wait, due to RCV Chris Bye the Libertarian candidate proceeded to the General with just 1,189 votes, less than 1% of the vote. 

Round 1

The General Election now had two Republicans, one Democrat, and one Libertarian in the race with the Republican Party as the favorite. With two Republicans on the ballot, however, the Republican vote was split so Democrat Mary Petola received the most votes. Libertarian Chris Bye received only 1.89% of the vote so he was eliminated from the following rounds. 

Round 2

Through RCV Chris Bye’s voters had the chance to select a second choice for victory. Almost 2000 of them chose Nick Begich with another 2000 split between Palin and Peltola. This kept Peltola in the lead with 49%, Palin in second with 26%, and Begich with 24% so he would not be advancing to round three. 

Nearly 1000 of Bye’s voters were declared “exhausted” meaning they had only voted for Bye. They lost their votes in the second and third rounds. Instead of getting another chance to choose in a traditional runoff, their votes were essentially tossed in the trash.

Round 3

In a traditional process, the Republican Party would have held their own Primary and chosen who would represent them in the General Election. Conservatives in Alaska would have rallied behind one candidate to defeat the other Parties’ opponents. That way, the vote would not be split as it was in this race. Perhaps the Democratic Party anticipated this scenario and coalesced around one candidate prior to the Primary Election with an unofficial selection process. 

When Peltola was declared the winner in the third round 14,796 voters’ ballots had been exhausted. That’s almost 15,000 citizens who were not given the choice between Sarah Palin and Mary Peltola. Whether that was due to purposeful choice, confusion, or a lack of education about RCV, 15,000 voters were disenfranchised in the final round.  

Disenfranchisement from RCV isn’t unique to this one Alaskan race. It happens with every ranked choice or preferential voting system. Alaskan voters and voters all across the nation have discovered that the new voting system they were sold was not what they received and they want to return it. 

Texans must learn from the mistakes of Alaska and other states who have tried RCV and similar systems. Preferential voting has not taken root in Texas and must be stopped before it is started. Don’t be fooled, Texas needs Closed Primary Elections and a Runoff system that isn’t confusing and inaccurate.