Three things to think about the week of June 9th
You’ve heard the phrase “Saturday morning cartoons,” and there’s a publication called the Saturday Evening Post. But this is a new one, even for us: a Saturday night primary election.
This is a date that’s been circled on our calendar for many months now. In two days, on June 11, the Alaska Board of Elections will start counting the ballots cast in a special primary election to replace the late Rep. Don Young. The ballots either will have been cast by mail (every eligible voter was sent one by the state elections board) or during early voting, thus why the tallies can start rolling in during a weekend.
But that’s not what makes this election so distinct. As you may have read from us, Saturday’s election is the first “top four” primary in the United States: all candidates are listed on one nonpartisan ballot, all eligible voters can select their one preferred candidate, and the top four finishers advance to the special general election. This primary is combined with a ranked choice voting general election, also the first pairing of its kind in American history.
Here’s why we think this development matters for you:
It’s the biggest example yet in the nationwide effort to put the interests of voters first. In most states, you either have to be a registered Republican or Democrat or select a Republican or Democratic ballot to participate in a primary election. In Alaska, no eligible voter is shut out of the process — and all candidates compete against each on a more level playing field: the same ballot. That equals more voice and more choice for the average voter. In addition, ranked choice voting in the general election ensures that winners have the support of a majority of voters.
For political candidates to represent a wider group of voters and for politics to reflect the interests of the whole public, American elections need to look more like Alaskan elections.
Given the significance of the day, here are three other things about Alaska to keep in mind this weekend and the week after:
The U.S. House seat on the ballot during Saturday’s initial vote count hasn’t been open in nearly half a century. Rep. Young was seated in 1973. It’s no surprise, then, that 48 candidates are on the ballot — a unique effect of lots of people “waiting their turn” for a long time.
The state is expected to have updated ballot counts over the course of a couple of weeks: one on Saturday, one on June 15, one on June 17, and one on June 21, with a target date of June 25 to certify the vote. These days were planned in advance. That’s no surprise for a mostly vote-at-home election, in a state where 82 percent of communities are inaccessible by road, per the state’s transportation department.