This post updates an earlier entry written after Alaska's August special election that sent Mary Peltola to Congress until the end of 2022.
Alaska is the second state in the US to embrace Ranked Choice Voting
Alaskans approved a ballot initiative in the 2020 general election that changed the way they conduct their state and federal elections. The elections affected are President/Vice President, U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, Governor/Lieutenant Governor, all state representatives and state senators. The first round primary election is now “non-partisan pick one. “ That means Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Independents are all on the same primary ballot. Voters in this round cast a vote for one candidate. The top 4 finishers are placed on the November General Election Ballot which is conducted with Ranked Choice Voting.
The results are now official, with both Peltola and three term Senator Lisa Murkowski winning their races in the general election.
Here’s my view on what Georgians could take away from the Alaska experience.
- Lisa Murkowski won another term with the support of people who didn’t vote for her as their first choice. One important selling point for RCV is that it rewards moderation in campaigning and eventually places people in office who are more practical and less ideological. Lisa Murkowski is a moderate Republican by today’s standards, who doesn’t always vote the party line. When we see what happened to Liz Cheney and other House Republicans who are deemed insufficiently loyal, Murkowski’s reelection confirms that RCV does mitigate against the polarizing effect of the traditional closed primary system.
- Mary Peltola finished a strong first in round one, and again got enough second choice votes from 3rd place finisher Republican Nick Begich to give her the margin she needed to win the full term. The dynamic seemed to be the same as it was in the special election. Alaskan voters rejected the divisiveness of former governor Sarah Palin to send a Democrat to congress in a conservative state. Appealing to a broad base is a wining strategy when RCV is in play.
- This discussion would not be complete if I did not point out that the Final Four format in Alaska offers a vast opportunity for a better election process not only because of using RCV to determine the winner, but because Alaska went to open primaries. That is a huge step in opening up the election process to a broader range of candidates.
The chart below shows how Peltola's winning margin was attained.
Better Ballot Georgia knows that, as long as ballot access remains restrictive in our state, we will miss out on the full opportunity offered by RCV. Convincing Georgia Ds and Rs to give up their closed primary system is a tough hill to climb. Alaska can change election laws through a referendum process, but Georgia must go the legislative route. So we take on one challenge at a time. Political progress, like the wheels of justice, turn slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. Let's keep our eyes on the prize!
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