Ranked-choice voting thwarts voters intentions

Again and again, the majority of voters in Alaska choose Republican candidates, but ranked-choice voting (RCV) won’t let one win.

To recap: long-time Republican Congressman Don Young died earlier this year. Alaska has only one House member, so since March, the state has had no representation in the national House of Representatives.

A special primary election was held in June, open to members of all political parties. The top four candidates, out of 22, were selected to advance to a special election in August. Here are the top 5 finishers in June:

Former Governor Sarah Palin finished first. The top 3 Republicans in the field received the majority of votes cast. Independent Al Gross dropped out. The leading Democrat, Mary Peltola, finished a distant fourth, with barely 10 percent of the vote.

In August, the special election was decided by RCV, as no candidate among the remaining three received a majority:

The Democrat, Peltola, moved from fourth in the primary to first place. But 60 percent of Alaska voters preferred a Republican candidate.

Although the election occurred on August 15, the ranked-choice votes were not counted until yesterday, August 31.

The majority of 3rd-place Begich’s voters picked Palin as their second choice candidate. But enough chose Peltola to hand victory to the Democrat, by a bare “majority.”

Source: State of Alaska, Division of Elections

A significant share of Begich’s voters, more than 11,000, did not make a 2nd choice, which also worked to the advantage of the Democrat. Had these 11,000 followed the same pattern as his other voters, Palin may have pulled out a win.

Regardless, Alaska voters get to do it all over again in November for the regular election for this seat. The same candidates will appear again on the ballot.

For Republicans in Alaska, the obvious solution is for the state party, or the candidates themselves, to select a single candidate to oppose Peltola. But that would take the decision out of the hands of voters, the problem that RCV claims to solve in the first instance.