RANKING YOUR CHOICES
What's wrong with the current system?
Currently, Alaska voters are forced to choose between the Democrat or Republican primary ballots, even if they are independent or non-partisan like most Alaskans. Over 60% of Alaska voters are “unaffiliated” with either the Democrat or Republican political parties.
The existing primaries reduce choices down to just the hand-picked candidates from the major parties in most races, and then voters are often forced to select between the “lesser of two evils.”
We could have up to 4 choices in the general election, and include non-partisan, independent, Alaskan candidates that may not fit in with either party.
What is ranked-choice voting?
In a ranked-choice voting (RCV) election, voters are able to rank candidates in order of choice – 1st choice, 2nd choice, and so on – on a single ballot. When the votes are counted, if a candidate has a majority of 1st choices, they win – just like today. But if no candidate receives a majority of 1st choices, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and voters who ranked that candidate 1st have their vote instantly go to their 2nd choice. This process continues until a candidate is elected with a majority of voters’ support.
Would my grandmother understand how to do this?
RCV is as easy as 1-2-3, and makes democracy more fair and functional. You rank your choices every day: if a restaurant is out of your first choice meal, you choose your second choice. It’s the same on an RCV ballot.
RCV is a simple change to the way we vote that can increase voter participation, civility in campaigning, and allow more independent candidates to run for office. In Maine’s 2018 election, RCV elected an Independent, who would have been much less likely to win had the traditional first past the post system been used.
After Minneapolis’ first ranked-choice voting election, a post-election survey conducted by Edison Research found that 95% of voters found the ranked ballot “easy to understand.” In the 2013 elections, this included 82% of voters of color, 81% of voters without a college education, and 81% of voters aged 65 and up. Additionally, 88% of voters ranked their ballots and more than two-thirds were familiar with RCV before going to the polls. The effective ballot rate was 99.95%, meaning that virtually every voter filled out his or her ballot correctly and had their vote counted.
Is anyone else doing this?
According to Ballotpedia, RCV has been enacted or used for political elections in 25 states. The State of Maine uses RCV to elect candidates to the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and in party primaries for state offices. Major political parties use RCV in four states. Five more states use Ranked Choice Voting for military and overseas voters to participate in runoff elections: Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina.
Eighteen U.S. cities have enacted Ranked Choice Voting for their local elections: including Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN; Oakland and San Francisco, CA; Takoma Park, MD; Basalt and Telluride, CO; Memphis, TN; Santa Fe, NM; Sarasota, FL; Ferndale, MI; Amherst, MA; Cambridge, MA; and many more. RCV has been implemented at local city or county levels in seven states so far, with another five states approving but not yet implementing RCV in local elections. According to FairVote, over 50 colleges and universities in the United States use ranked-choice voting to elect some or all student government positions. That means that over 700,000 students across the country are empowered with more choice in electing student leaders.
What might my ballot look like?
Here’s a sample ballot. Voters fill in one first-choice bubble, one second-choice bubble, and so on until they’ve ranked all of their choices.
How much would it cost?
Requiring wealthy special interest groups to disclose their spends on Alaska campaigns won’t cost additional money.
Ranked-Choice in the general election doesn’t cost any more to process than the existing ballots; this portion is revenue-neutral too.
However, a simplified open primary, where the Division of Elections prints a single ballot instead of two, and sends out only enough for voters in each area (instead of double, on rural-Alaska shipping rates) would save the state money. Additionally, this reduces the risk of future lawsuits, like on the North Slope over primary errors.
After a short changeover period for the Division of Elections, this should save the state money every election.
What's the solution?
Our Solution: Ranked choice voting (RCV) will improve our election system and save money.
With ranked-choice voting, the people Alaska will have more choice and voice in electing their representatives.
Many local offices are elected in two rounds of elections; either a primary winnowing the field to two followed by a general election, or a general election followed by a runoff if no candidate has a majority. According to FairVote, any election that takes place outside of the context of the general Election Day often suffers from very weak and unrepresentative turnout, while raising issues of vote splitting in the first round and the possibility of disenfranchising overseas and military voters. Ranked-choice voting saves money when replacing runoff elections.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
There are some great additional resources out there about ranked-choice voting: