Alaska’s New Ranked Choice Voting System

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Beginning with this year’s election cycle, Alaskans will vote in an entirely new way that promises beneficial and far more representational results. Our state’s new ranked choice voting system is true to our Alaskan style of individualism, offering voters a field of candidates that represents the diversity of the Alaskan electorate. All kinds of people are campaigning on all sorts of platforms and issues and individual voters will have an opportunity to choose the candidates that best represent their interests and concerns.

Ranked choice voting encourages candidates to campaign by engaging voters on important issues and helps ensure that winners are elected with the support of a true majority. Jason Grenn, Executive Director of Alaskans for Better Elections, explains. “With ranked choice voting, you can say, ‘this time, I’m going to give my number one vote to the person who’s probably not going to win, because I truly believe in them. If they’re eliminated because they’re in last place, it’s ok because I made a backup choice. I haven’t compromised my beliefs.’ When you think about it, the concept is really quite simple, and nothing particularly new. We rank things every day, without even thinking about it. If you go to a restaurant, and they don’t have your favorite burger because they ran out of toppings, you go, ‘Okay, what’s my backup choice?’ and you’re still pretty happy.”

Under ranked choice voting, the four candidates who receive the most votes in our primary election will advance to the general election in November. In the general election, voters will have the opportunity to rank those four candidates in order of preference. You will still have the option to choose just one preferred candidate, as you do now. The difference is, if your preferred candidate doesn’t prevail, ranked choice voting provides you the opportunity to name a second (or third or fourth) option, ensuring your voice and your priorities are still reflected in the electoral process.

Ranked choice voting is also designed to ensure that the winning candidate prevails with a majority of votes (50% or more), rather than the current system which often chooses a winning candidate with only a plurality—sometimes as low as 34% of the total votes cast. Under ranked choice, if a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the first choices, they are declared the winner. If not, the candidate with the fewest first choices will be eliminated, and the voters who ranked that particular candidate first will have their second choice counted when the ballots are tabulated again. This process continues until one candidate emerges with majority (50%) support.

The new system also allows Alaskans to vote for candidates who address the issues that matter most to the voter. And it encourages voters to become more engaged in the electoral process by offering choices. Michelle Spark, Director of Get Out the Native Vote says, “If you care about fishing, which I know you do, it matters who you vote for. [Under this system] you can talk to your local leaders, who will give you a sense of which candidates will help you or hurt you. Everything leads back to subsistence and our way of life. If you care about protecting Alaska, and being able to pass this purity, beauty, and abundance on to your children, then we need to become more engaged as citizens.”

It’s time to get out the Native vote. Your voice is essential in each and every election. If you haven’t voted in the past, for whatever reasons, this new way of voting should inspire you. Now you have more power, more influence, and better choices than ever before. You can vote with your heart and conscience to elect lawmakers who will help advance the issues you care most about. To learn more about ranked choice voting, check out and