Alaska prepares to use ranked-choice voting for the first time

Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 8:03 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - August 16 is a big day for Alaska, and the country.

For the first time, Alaskan voters will use ranked-choice voting for the special general election to determine who will fill the house seat after the death of Republican Rep. Don Young.

To win outright, a candidate needs at least a 50% majority of the votes. If there’s no majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who selected the eliminated candidate as their first choice will have their second-choice votes tabulated.

Since this is the first year this style of voting will be in practice, some voters have expressed confusion and said it may deter them from casting votes. Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai disagrees.

“I feel the division has had a pretty strong voter education campaign, telling people to expect this,” Fenumiai said. “Sample ballots are available on our website, they can practice how to rank candidates. It’s a matter of filling in ovals, one per candidate, as many candidates as you choose.”

Executive Director for Alaskans for Better Elections Jason Grenn says this new method of voting will allow voters to express themselves in a way that has never been done before, rather than casting a vote for one person voters can rank their favorite candidates in order. He also stated that Alaska has the highest number of voters who are not affiliated with the two major parties, and feels that ranked-choice voting will allow them better options.

“Now they (voters) get a way to say, ‘hey, instead of voting for just one party or the other, I can think about voting for an independent, or I can think about voting for a Democrat even though I’m a Republican,’ and not worry about vote splitting or not worry about spoiling the election,” Grenn said.

The biggest thing to remember for voters is that they will be casting ballots in two separate elections, and to make sure they’re completing both sides of the ballot.

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