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Nonpartisan Primaries

Reforming Elections: Nick Troiano & Judy Woodruff of PBS on Nonpartisan Primaries

Learn how Alaska’s innovative primary system is pioneering changes for a fairer, more representative democracy.

Alana Persson
Digital Marketing Associate
May 30, 2024

In a recent episode of "America at a Crossroads," Unite America's Executive Director Nick Troiano and PBS Senior Correspondent Judy Woodruff explored the transformative impact of nonpartisan primaries. The segment highlighted Alaska's pioneering use of a top-four nonpartisan primary and instant runoff general election system, showcasing how this approach improves representation and fosters better governance. 

Exploring the Impact of Alaska's Nonpartisan Primary System 

Below are a few key takeaways from the segment, illustrating the significant impact of Alaska’s electoral reforms on representation and voter participation.

1. A More Meaningful Vote: The segment explains how the system aims to increase competition and give Alaskans a more meaningful vote. Under Alaska’s old election system, independent voters — who make up 58% of the state’s electorate — did not have a guaranteed right to participate in the state’s party primaries. However, under Alaska’s nonpartisan, all-candidate model, all eligible voters can now participate in every taxpayer-funded election. 

As a result of this new system, all voters were able to evaluate candidates beyond simple party dynamics and instead based on their individual merits and issues, ultimately electing a politically and demographically diverse slate of leaders that reflected Alaska. 

2. Enhancing Representation: As Nick Troiano states, Alaska’s voting system is designed to reflect a broad spectrum of voter preferences, fostering representative outcomes, which is precisely what it has already achieved. 

Judy Woodruff reiterates the system's impact on representation, noting,

"Representative Peltola's path to the Capitol wasn't just historic as the first Alaska Native in Congress. It was also made possible by Alaska's unique primary system, where all candidates, regardless of party, appear on a single ballot.”

3. Breaking Through Partisan Gridlock: The discussion highlighted how Alaska’s election system, which combines a nonpartisan primary with an instant runoff general election, helps combat political polarization. Alaska’s primary system has been instrumental in moderating the state’s political extremes and increasing voter turnout, reflecting a more inclusive approach to the electoral process.

Expanding the Impact of Alaska’s System 

Alaska's nonpartisan primaries have showcased significant benefits, suggesting that such reforms could be transformative nationwide. Nick Troiano elaborates on this potential in the next segment, discussing the broader implications for our electoral systems.

The insights highlighted here are just the beginning. Watch the full segment to learn how nonpartisan election reform fosters Alaska's more representative and functional government. 

Interested in diving deeper into Alaska’s election system? Check out the Unite America Institute’s report on Alaska's election model to learn more.