Alaska Approves Ranked-Choice Voting, A Big Win For Democracy Reform

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Alaska will become the second state to implement ranked-choice voting after voters narrowly approved the measure, according to Anchorage Daily News.

With an estimated 99.9% of votes counted statewide, Ballot Measure 2 has received the support of 50.55% of Alaska’s voters, according to results posted Tuesday night by the Alaska Division of Elections. Vote counting will finish Wednesday but is not expected to change the final result. Election officials will spend one week double-checking the result before certifying the election Nov. 25.

Starting with the 2022 election, the measure will merge the state’s two primary elections into one, and the top four vote-getters regardless of political party will advance to the general election. Some states have so-called “top two” primaries. Alaska will be the only state with a “top four” primary.

In the general election, voters will be asked to rank the four candidates in order of preference. Maine already uses that system. Ranked-choice voting would apply to legislative races, and all statewide races, including governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House. The 2024 presidential race will also be ranked-choice but is not subject to the top-four primary.

The report indicated that both proponents and opponents of the measure expect it will be challenged in court, and it is possible that the state legislature could amend some aspects.

The measure also included a “dark money” provision that “will require greater financial disclosure by groups giving money to candidates in state legislative races and in the governor’s race,” according to the report.

Brett Huber, campaign manager of the leading vote-no group, pointed to the “dark money” provision as a reason the measure passed in Alaska, while a ranked-choice measure failed in Massachusetts.

What is ranked-choice voting?

TIME magazine describes ranked-choice voting as follows:

Ranked-choice voting is an electoral system that allows people to vote for multiple candidates, in order of preference. Instead of just choosing who you want to win, you fill out the ballot saying who is your first choice, second choice, or third choice (or more as needed) for each position.

The candidate with the majority (more than 50%) of first-choice votes wins outright. If no candidate gets a majority of first-choice votes, then it triggers a new counting process. The candidate who did the worst is eliminated, and that candidate’s voters’ ballots are redistributed to their second-choice pick. In other words, if you ranked a losing candidate as your first choice, and the candidate is eliminated, then your vote still counts: it just moves to your second-choice candidate. That process continues until there is a candidate who has the majority of votes.

Read the full report.

Image credit: Screengrab / State of Alaska Division of Elections / YouTube

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