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Alaska’s election just got shaken up in a big way

The death of Don Young is shaking up the Alaska political scene; Florida creates a new agency to examine a nonexistent crime, and Utah considers the drawbacks of a two party system.

Brett Maney
Sr. Communications Manager
March 24, 2022

The death of Alaska Representative Don Young this week has shaken up the election landscape in a big way. Young, the longest serving member of the House of Representatives — ever — was a stalwart statesman and advocate for the people of Alaska. 

With the death of Young, the state will now hold a special election for their single, at-large representative. Given the reform Alaskans passed in 2020, the election will use a historic combination of a nonpartisan primary and ranked choice voting. 

The only catch is: it’s happening five months faster than anyone expected. 

Yeah. There’s a lot to do. Here are three things to think about this week.  

  1. Alaska braces for a historic election

The death of long-serving Alaska Representative Don Young has thrown a curve ball in the state’s election plans. The Frontier State, having adopted a transformative new election system that combines a nonpartisan primary with a ranked choice voting general election, was originally planning on having through November to educate voters. Now, Governor Mike Dunleavy has announced that the special election will take place in June, giving election officials just three months to prepare. 

Luckily, our friends at Alaskans for Better Elections have been doing amazing work since the reform passed in 2020 to outreach to Alaskan voters. Thanks to the Alaska-style elections, every voter will now have a say in who represents them in Congress, and the system ensures that the candidate with the most support wins. Help them out! Follow them on Twitter and share tweets like these to make sure that every Alaskan has the information they need to go  vote. 

  1. Fighting a crime that doesn’t exist

Across the country, there have been a rash of laws passed by state legislators that attempt to crack down on voter fraud. The only issue: voter fraud is rare — like, very rare.

Florida, for instance, recently passed a law creating a dedicated agency responsible for investigating voter fraud. But in the 2020 election, the state flagged just 75 votes out of the more than 11 million votes cast as being potentially fraudulent. These are laws in search of crime. Read more about the trend here.  


  1. What a two-party system gets us

Finally, a story from the reliably red state of Utah, where Democrats haven’t won a Senate seat in over 40 years. Republican Senator Mike Lee is up for reelection, and faces a challenge from Evan McMullin. The only hitch: McMullin is an independent. Democrats are now internally debating whether to support one of their own candidates (who would almost certainly lose), or to try to knock Lee out by unifying behind McMullin. 

It’s not an ideal situation for anyone. In a three-way race, it’s possible that Lee wins reelection with less than a majority of support from Utahans. If Democrats choose not to endorse their own candidate, Democrats in the state are left without their own representative on the ballot. It’s why reforms like ranked choice voting and nonpartisan primaries are so critical. They give every voter a say in every election — without forcing voters (or parties!) to choose between the lesser of the two evils. 

Thanks for reading. If you’re in the New Orleans area, I hope you’re staying safe. Our thoughts are with you.