Tag Archives: rank choice voting

So, How’s Rank Choice Voting Working out for Alaska?

Like me, some of you may only recently have gotten interested in rank-choice voting. One-week out, I found myself curious: How is RCV playing out in Alaska? First, and foremost, the process seems to be working smoothly and the vast majority of voters are reporting the method is straightforward. With the caveat that final results will not be known until November 23, it also appears that the process this round, at least, is favoring incumbents for state-wide office. It should also be said that the incumbents appear significantly more moderate than the outside-challengers–so maybe RCV is doing what it is meant to do. Meanwhile, the Alaska statehouse appears likely to reconvene with a bipartisan majority coalition, as Alaska Democrats make gains.

Interestingly, voter turnout in Alaska this cycle appears to be “far below the high water mark set in the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections, when around 285,000 Alaskans cast their ballots.” Some are predicting that the number of Alaskans participating in this election may be the lowest since 2010. This could be a product of RCV. It could be election fatigue from the August special election. But is also could be an artifact of numbers. In 2016, Alaska adopted automatic voter registration, increasing the number of registered voters by more than 70,000. At the same time, the state has lost thousands of residents. That probably still leaves 2018 as a genuine high-water mark for midterm turnout, but it might problematize some of the other comparison points.

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Rank Choice Voting: A Scaleable Reform?

As more jurisdictions are considering introducing rank choice voting (the issue will be on the ballot in Nevada this fall), Politico offers this long-form essay on Alaska’s experience. Can Alaska “point the way to a more moderate, more nuanced way of doing politics”? Or is rank choice voting a product of Alaska’s uniquely independent culture? Politico spoke to Ivan Moore, “a longtime Alaska pollster who is considered one of the foremost experts on the state’s politics.”

“Number one, that ranked choice voting worked well. Pretty flawless performance by the Alaska Division of Elections.

. . .

[Sarah Palin lost because] Sarah Palin is indeed very unpopular.”

Interestingly, the relationship of a state’s culture to the potential for reform is a longstanding question. Early adopters of vote by mail, early voting, and same-day registration, for example, were often states that already had high turnout. This often led political scientists (and I believed them) to conclude the reforms were not scaleable. But 2020 seems to have proved them wrong.

By way of clarification, even if the Nevada ballot initiative is successful, the earliest the reform could be implemented is 2026. Amendment to the state constitution must be passed in two consecutive cycles. Rank choice voting is on the ballot in nine jurisdictions this fall, but the rest are at the municipal level.

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