Welcome to a Special Edition of the Better Ballot Bulletin. Alaska used instant runoff voting (aka ranked choice voting) for the first time and the results are in.
Alaska's Particular Type of IRV
There are different types of instant runoff voting. Alaska conducts what is referred to as a jungle or blanket primary first. This is a free for all where anyone who qualifies under Alaska law can run. This special election turned out 10 candidates, but only the top 4 voter getters, regardless of party, advanced to the general election.
The results: Sarah Palin (R) 27%, Nicholas Begich III (R) 19%, Al Gross (I) 12%, and Mary Peltola (D) 12%. As you can see, Republicans secured the largest vote share. That makes sense when one considers that there are more registered Republicans than Democrats in Alaska. However, there are even more Alaskans that are undeclared or affiliated with a third party.
Al Gross dropped out of the race, but not early enough to allow another candidate to take his place on the ballot. This meant that on August 14 Alaskans only had 3 options instead of 4.
What took so long?
Alaska is a huge state with a lot of rural area. They allowed up to two weeks for mail in ballots to be returned (August 31st). When they had all the ballots, they pushed the button and quickly got the instant runoff result.
And the winner is...
A Positive Campaign
Peltola, the first Alaska native to serve in congress, ran a campaign that focused on her positive vision for Alaska. She served in the legislature and built bridges between Democrats and Republicans. She is all about developing Alaska and utilizing its resources in a way that Alaskans support.
Buying into the System
Peltola supported the new IRV system from the start and bought into it. She took selfies with her rivals and focused more on her policies than on tearing down her opponents.
The Republicans did no such thing. They fought amongst each other instead of lifting each other up. Check out this article from Alaska Public Media.
Sarah Palin campaigned against RCV/IRV, which likely caused voters not to rank her as their second choice. Check out this analysis by FairVote Action.
Voters Understood the System and Like It
According to a new poll conducted by Patinkin Research Strategies, 85% of voters found RCV to be simple and 95% of voters received instructions on how to use the system.
High Voter Turn Out
Though this was a special case for an open seat (Don Young had held the position for nearly 50 years), voter turnout was higher than in the last three primaries
99.8% of all ballots cast were valid, confirming that voters did understand the system.
Alaska has joined Maine as the only two states to use IRV statewide, but this is new territory for Alaska and the IRV movement in general because the system they use is different than Maine's.
This first case was a singular election. At the same time that Alaskans were ranking their candidates in the special election for their US House Seat, they were also voting in the primary for the regular general election in November. Come November, Alaskans will be voting in over 60 instant runoff contests.
Confused about the difference between instant runoff voting and ranked choice voting? No worries. They're the same thing. It's also called preferential voting and the alternative vote. At Better Ballot South Carolina, we use the term instant runoff voting because voters can easily see the connection between this upgrade to the way we vote and our current runoff system.
Events to Help Further IRV in SC
Canvassing at the Irmo Okra Strut Festival: Sept 24. This local favorite is sure to turn out lots of people. Join us to talk to festival goers about the benefits of instant runoff voting.
Weekly Work Jam and Welcome: These free form Zoom sessions are all about getting work done. Roll up your sleeves to learn a new skill or contribute with what your best at. Wednesdays: Sept 7 and Sept 21
Curious what we'll be working on? Check out our Slack (click here to join) or Facebook beforehand.
Phone Banking with Better Ballot SC: Sept 13 and Sept 27 at 6pm. Time to hit the phones! We have supporters and we need too mobilize them. Join us biweekly.
Future Events to get Excited About!
Canvassing at the South Carolina Pride Fest: Oct 15. Join us to celebrate and talk to a great crowd of people on Main Street in Columbia.
IRV Day Rally 1/23: Jan 23. We're going to the state house and you should come too! Let's show them how many of us want this simple, common sense upgrade!
Want to be more connected? Join our Slack channel!
Easy Ways to Help the Cause
Hang some flyers: Check out our Printables!
Sign and Share the Petition: Petition!
Donate to the cause: Donate! Consider making a monthly contribution. It helps us to better strategize our long term goals.
Thank you for your time,
Better Ballot Bulletin: Alaska Special Edition
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