Voices & Choices

Alaska and Wyoming Experience Success With RCV Primaries

Alaska and Wyoming Experience Success With RCV Primaries

When it comes to presidential primaries, ranked choice voting (RCV) just makes sense. Need proof? Look no further than Alaska and Wyoming—states that both conducted recent primaries via mail-in RCV ballots. In both places, RCV empowered voters, promoted turnout, and ensured no votes were “wasted.”  

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In Alaska, all eligible voters were mailed an RCV ballot—and turnout soared. To wit, this year, 19,813 votes were cast, nearly doubling the 2016 caucuses’ 10,610 participants. Even better, because the ballots were ranked choice, the 10.8 percent of voters who picked a candidate who had dropped out weeks ago had the opportunity to rank their back-up choices—which 92 percent of them did. Joe Biden, despite not reaching a majority of first choices, ended up garnering 55.3 percent of the vote after ballots were tabulated; Bernie Sanders ended up with 44.7 percent support. 
 
“Despite a global pandemic, Alaska Democrats truly implemented voting best practices this year, and they should be commended,” Rob Richie, President and CEO of FairVote, said in a press release. “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.”
 
In Wyoming, RCV experienced similar success. Like Alaska, Wyoming Democratic primary voters were also mailed RCV ballots, and turnout more-than-doubled, skyrocketing from 7,200 people in 2016 to 15,403 this cycle. In Wyoming, 10.4 percent of ballots would have been “wasted” on non-viable candidates without RCV, but the use of RCV ensured all voters had a say in the outcome of the race. After all rounds of tabulation concluded, Biden achieved 72.2 percent support, while Sanders came away with 27.8 percent. (Note: in both Alaska and Wyoming, many mail-in ballots were cast before Senator Sanders suspended his campaign.)


In both states, it was clear that the ranking process was simple, quick, and desirable. Roughly nine of every ten voters who did not choose Biden or Sanders as a first choice had their votes count for either candidate in the final round, indicating voters’ voices were still heard. And in Wyoming, 99.8 percent of ballots were valid—a remarkable statistic that indicates how intuitive and straightforward RCV truly is.
 
We are truly heartened to see mail-in RCV ballots experience such success in Alaska and Wyoming, and hope that legislators across the country will consider the method to ensure all voters have a voice in upcoming elections.

Photos by Jesse Gardner and McKayla Crump Unsplash

 

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