Voices & Choices

Alaska could be next state to adopt ranked choice voting

Alaska could be next state to adopt ranked choice voting

Recently, Alaska became one of the six states to adopt ranked choice voting (RCV) for their 2020 Democratic primaries. Now, the state is taking more strides to strengthen democratic reform, embracing statewide RCV in an effort to make its elections more fair and representative. 

On July 6, Alaskans for Better Elections submitted a three-pronged ballot proposal to improve Alaska's elections by increasing transparency, participation, access, and choice in Alaska's elections. This proposal includes implementation of RCV at the state level, which would make Alaska the second state, after Maine, to implement it statewide.

Alaska could become the first state to use  "Top Four Ranked-Choice Voting.” This system would utilize a blanket primary ballot with the top four vote-getters advancing to the final round of the election. Voters would use ranked choice voting among those four candidates (and a write-in, if they so choose) in the November elections.

The other two provisions of the three-pronged proposal include replacing the state’s primary elections with a single statewide primary in which all Alaskans, regardless of party affiliation, can vote, and a change to Alaska’s campaign finance laws that would eliminate “dark money” contributions to political campaigns.

The RCV initiative aligns with FairVote’s mission of allowing voters to have a greater voice in election results. By allowing Alaskan voters to rank their top four candidates, this measure would ensure that a majority of voters largely agree on their representative.

Alaskans for Better Elections, the group that submitted the proposal, is a bipartisan group of community leaders that includes former Independent State Representative Jason Grenn, former Juneau mayor Bruce Bothelo, former chief of staff to Governor Bill Walker Scott Kendall, and Anchorage Republican Bonnie Jack. Together, they’re leading the fight for fairer elections in the country’s largest state.

You end up being able to vote for the person you want,” Jack said. “Everybody runs against everybody.”

“We believe the people deserve the opportunity to vote their conscience without having to worry about wasting their vote. This is a common-sense reform that offers more choice and tells candidates to fight for my vote instead of just fighting against each other,” Bothelo added. 

In recent years, Alaska has leaned slightly Republican, though Libertarians have also had strong showings. In 2016, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski secured her seat with only 44 percent of the vote; the independent, Libertarian, and Democratic candidates all won between 11 and 30 percent, respectively, in the race. In the 2018 house race, Republican incumbent Don Young narrowly defeated independent Alyse Gavin. RCV, evidently, has the potential to affect election results in the state.

If Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer deems the ballot measure legal, supporters will need to gather 28,501 signatures from election districts across the state in order to qualify it for the 2020 ballot. Those signatures must be turned in to the Division of Elections before the start of next year’s regular legislative session. If not, the initiative would not appear before voters until 2022.

Alaska’s citizens have the chance to reform the way they vote, make their individual voices heard, and improve the way their state is run. We hope they will take this opportunity to strive toward a more perfect union.


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