Ranked Choice Would Be A Big Change In Voting

Oct 6, 2020

Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

If passed, the Top-Four Ranked-Choice Voting and Campaign Finance Laws Initiative, or Ballot Measure 2, would change the way that Alaskans vote in both the primary and general elections. It would do away with Alaska's current partisan primary, allowing Alaskans to vote for any candidate in the primary, regardless of party affiliation. 

The top four vote-getters in the primary would go on to the general election; voters would be asked not only to choose their top candidate but to rank their second, third, and fourth choices. 

If Ballot Measure 2 passes, the general election would be held using a ranked choice voting system. Alaskans would be given a ranked, or preferential, ballot to put candidates in order of preference from first to fourth. If no one candidate receives more than half of the votes in the general election, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and all of the votes cast for that person go to their voters' second choices. This process would continue until one of the remaining candidates receives a majority of the votes.

Supporters of ranked choice voting, like Joy Huntington, a consultant for the campaign, see it as a way to encourage more collaboration by legislators, because they would be less reliant on getting the support of political parties for a place on the ballot.

“And if you adamantly feel really strongly that one of the candidates would not be great for your community, then you can help to make sure that maybe your second or third choice would get on,” says Huntington. “So I think that is a major change as well, which will hopefully, across the board, increase voter turnout, and we’d get more balanced people who are willing to work across the aisle.”

Opponents to Ballot Measure 2's ranked choice voting say that’s not a problem in Alaska, where there is a history of crossing party lines. They point to an independent candidate who became governor, and how at least one candidate failed to get on the Republican ballot for one of Alaska’s U.S. Senate seats, but won the general election with a write-in campaign. 

Brett Huber, with the group Defend Alaska’s Elections, said that ranked choice will eliminate the people who are the real political leaders from the final ballot. 

“To me it’s just laughable,” said Huber. “You’re going to end up with candidates that are the least objectionable instead of the most supported. So, again, history proves that it’s not just R’s and D’s. We have bipartisan coalitions more often than not.”

You can hear more from both supporters and opponents of Ballot Measure 2 by going to Coffee@KYUK on KYUK’s website.