Voices & Choices

April 16, Webinar: Wisconsin, Alaska, and Washington’s Primary Elections

April 16, Webinar: Wisconsin, Alaska, and Washington’s Primary Elections

If you missed April 16th’s webinar, a conversation about the different election systems used in Wisconsin, Alaska and Washington’s for the 2020 Presidential Primaries, don’t worry—we have you covered!  

Check out the highlights (and timestamps of the most notable discussion points) below from the conversation, featuring:

  • Moderator Deb Otis, Data Analyst at FairVote
  • Panelist Mohit Nair, Partnerships Director of FairVote Washington,
  • Panelist Bob Betzig, President and Field Director of FairVote Wisconsin
  • Panelist Amber Lee, PR Consultant for FairVote’s Presidential Primaries education project in Alaska

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Timestamp 2:20 – Mohit Nair details the experience of voting in Washington’s March 10 primary, noting that the state’s vote-by-mail system is very accessible to all voters—which “is crucial during a pandemic.” However, he points out that many Washington voters were frustrated by the fact that they may have cast a mail-in ballot early for a candidate who withdrew from the race before election day.

Timestamp 5:00 – Mohit Nair makes the case for RCV in Washington primaries, asserting that, “despite the tremendous potential we talked about with mail-in ballots—improved accessibility, increased turnout—we really were not able to realize this full potential because we did not have ranked choice voting.”

Timestamp 6:55 – Bob Betzig delves into the experience of voting in Wisconsin’s recent April 7 primary, which featured numerous closures of polling places amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. He also lists the four things he believes went wrong with the Wisconsin primary: not delaying the election, not scaling up the infrastructure for absentee ballots, low turnout spurred by polling place closures and confusion over witness signatures, and toxic partisanship in Wisconsin.

Timestamp 11:10- Bob Betzig explains the efforts of FairVote Wisconsin, which includes fighting for fair redistricting processes. He cuts out, but starts again at 16:25.

Timestamp 12:55 – Before Amber Lee joined the conversation, Deb Otis details how RCV worked in Alaska’s all-mail primary, providing a great factual overview of the election and calling it “a true success story.” 

Timestamp 18:10 – Deb Otis asks the panelists to talk about upcoming congressional and local primaries, which may occur while social distancing measures are still in place. At 19:30, Nair gives his answer, and at 21:15, Betzig gives his, including a rundown of the eight requests FairVote Washington has made to the governor and state legislature.

Timestamp 25:15  - Mohit Nair answers an audience question about election security and making sure Washington voters’ addresses are updated.

Timestamp 26:40 – Amber Lee joins the conversations, and after a brief introduction by Deb Otis, she explains how the combination of RCV and mail-in elections worked in Alaska’s primary.

Timestamp 31:25 – Amber Lee believes Alaska’s recent experience with RCV will make voters in the state more open to using RCV in general elections in the state. At 33:20, Lee explains how the vote-counting process worked in the primary.

Timestamp 35:20 – Bob Beitzig says that, in the future, he would like the Wisconsin state legislature to adopt multi-member districts elected via RCV.

Timestamp 37:35 – Each of the panelists discusses how citizens can get involved in democracy reform efforts in their respective states. Actions activists can take include calling legislators, signing up to volunteer, and talking to neighbors, among other suggestions provided by the panelists.



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