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Alaska’s New Year’s Resolution: Repeal RCV

A year of crazy elections in Alaska is finally in the rearview mirror. But without ridding the state of ranked-choice voting, this confusing and ill-advised vote counting system will continue to undermine the integrity Alaska’s elections and disenfranchise voters in the future.

Ranked-choice voting—or RCV—was approved in 2020 and made its debut in Alaskan elections in 2022. Instead of declaring a winner based upon who received the most votes, as is commonly done in elections determined by plurality, RCV requires a candidate to earn more than 50 percent of all of the votes. But instead of giving voters a second chance to vote on the top two candidates when a majority hasn’t been reached, as runoff elections attempt to do, RCV requires voters to predict the election’s outcomes and preemptively rank every candidate on the ballot—even those they may oppose. If they fail to rank each candidate, voters risk having their ballot exhausted—a pretty euphemism for “thrown out.”

So, let’s recap RCV’s performance over the past year.

2022 Special Election

When Alaskan voters turned out in August to select the late Congressman Don Young’s replacement, 60 percent of voters went for a Republican. But by the last round of tabulation, Democrat Mary Peltola was declared the winner.  

In this case, more than 11,000 ballots were tossed because the voters had cast their vote only for another Republican candidate. As a result, Peltola came out ahead by slightly more than 5,000 votes. 

Alaskans were forced to wait more than two weeks to get these confusing results, and in the meantime, had no representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

2022 General Election

In November’s midterm elections, Democrat Mary Peltola won reelection to the state’s at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after three rounds of RCV tabulation and, once again, after nearly 15,000 ballots were exhausted. 

And even though Senator Lisa Murkowski won a plurality of votes right off the bat in the race for Alaska’s U.S. Senate seat, it also took three rounds of RCV tabulation for her to be declared the winner.  

It’s not just federal contests that are being impacted by RCV’s complicated and confusing rules. Several state seats were also subjected to rounds of RCV, including the race for House District 18. In this case, the Republican incumbent won a plurality of nearly 44 percent in the first round, yet ultimately lost to Democrat Cliff Groh by just 77 votes. Notably, 104 votes were exhausted—more than enough to have changed the outcome. 

And to get all of these results, voters were forced to wait more than 16 days.

Alaska should resolve to abandon RCV before it’s too late.

American elections were built on the principle of “one person, one vote,” but RCV threatens that principle by systematically discarding ballots that fail to rank every candidate. And to complicate things even further, RCV delays election results and opens the door to increased distrust in the system. When all of our efforts should be put toward increasing election integrity and making it easier to vote and hard to cheat, RCV puts an unrealistic burden on voters to be informed about every single candidate and stretches out the election process far beyond our comfort level.   

This year, Alaska’s New Year’s resolution should be to drop RCV before it’s too late. Alaska is just one of two states that have adopted RCV for all elections, but as the Left continue to push for RCV across the United States, Alaska should reverse course and tell its cautionary tale about the failed experiment of RCV.

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