“Column: Think our politics stink? Look north — to Alaska”

Mark Barabak LAT column:

The notion is that by competing en masse not just to finish first but also to be voters’ second choice, successful candidates will have to appeal to a broader segment of the electorate.

As experts recently explained in the Anchorage Daily News, “Encouraging politicians to take more extreme views … [makes] our legislatures increasingly dysfunctional. Instead of meeting in the middle to find solutions both sides can live with, they drive legislators further apart and make it harder to agree.”

The most recent session of the Alaska Legislature proved instructive.

There was less reflexive partisanship and more cooperation across party lines, those experts said, attributing the change to the state’s revamped voting system. They cited the budget lawmakers passed and, in particular, the agreed-upon disbursements from the state’s Permanent Fund, an account that pays residents annual dividends from Alaska’s oil wealth.

Writing in the Anchorage paper, political scientists Glenn Wright, David Lublin and Benjamin Reilly noted the dividend was smaller than many Republicans would have liked, but that left more money for education and programs that others preferred.

“A classic political compromise,” they called it, suggesting that “rather than spending their time bashing the other party,” lawmakers chosen under the new system reached across the aisle and bargained to reach a consensus.

Which, ideally, is how legislating works.

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