Posted by Emily Risch on April 13, 2020 at 11:54 AM

 Alaska Democratic Voters, Using Ranked Choice Voting For the First Time, Give 55% of Final Votes to Biden and 45% to Sanders in Its Presidential Primary

Ranked Choice Voting “Saves” More than 10% of All Ballots Cast for Other Candidates

Juneau, AK; April 11, 2020 – FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for electoral reform in the United States, hailed the use of ranked choice voting for the first time in a major party presidential primary. Alaska Democrats today released results from their party-run presidential primary.

Top takeaways:

  • Despite a global pandemic, 19,813 votes were cast compared to 10,610 in their 2016’s caucus-only system and 8,880 in 2008.
  • Joe Biden fell just short of 50% of first choices, but won a clear majority after the ranked choice voting tally, defeating Bernie Sanders by 55.3% to 44.7%, winning 8 of 15 delegates.
  • 10.8% of voters picked a candidate who had dropped out weeks ago as their #1 choice, reflecting a pattern in other Democratic contests.  But unlike the over two million such voters in other states, these Alaska voters could indicate their backup choices — and more than 92% of them had their ballot count for Biden or Sanders in the final round.

On ranked choice voting, Alaska Democratic Party Chair Casey Steinau’s endorsement has been to the point: “It allows their votes to count.”

Alaska Democrats pioneered a number of best practices for such a party-run contest in addition to ranked choice voting. Among them: (1) all active registered voters who are Democrats were mailed a ballot; (2) voters could return ballots with postage-paid envelopes; (3) a major voting equipment vendor tallied results, with the first statewide use of a risk-limiting audit in a ranked choice voting election.

The news from Alaska comes at a stark contrast to Wisconsin, as officials still have not released the results of its election day on Tuesday. Many are still reeling after voters had to choose between risking their health and having their votes counted this week.

“Despite a global pandemic, Alaska Democrats truly implemented voting best practices this year, and they should be commended,” shared Rob Richie, founder of FairVote. “Voters should never have to choose between the candidate they believe is most likely to win and the candidate they actually want in office, and ranked choice voting provides that for them.”

FairVote worked closely on voter education with nonpartisan organizations in Alaska, including creating  a video and written materials. FairVote is providing support right now to ranked choice voting advocates in Utah who are helping the Utah Republican Party use RCiV at its upcoming state convention

Democrats will also use similar practices, including ranked choice voting, in presidential primaries now underway in Hawaii, Kansas and Wyoming. More than two-thirds of voters in Nevada’s caucuses in February also cast ranked choice voting ballots when voting early.

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FairVote is a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans. 

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