Three things to think about this August 11th
There’s a buzz in the air as Alaska prepares for a monumental day this upcoming Tuesday. It’s not just momentous for Alaskans, though — it’s a day that all Americans should be excited about. Why? Because it marks the first and LARGEST coordinated effort to solve The Primary Problem that we have seen yet as a nation. The “Last Frontier” state becomes the first, if you will.
For the first time, a state’s voters will use a game-changing type of reform: a nonpartisan primary and ranked choice general election, a reform that will give voters more representation, better choices — and results.
We’ve been talking with you about this exciting reform in Alaska for a long time. Let’s break down what it all means for voters across Alaska this month and, more broadly, for the potential future of elections in our country. Here are three things to keep in mind:
One of the two elections on Alaska’s ballot next Tuesday is a top-four primary election. This is a much-anticipated election, as ALL eligible voters can participate, and ALL candidates, regardless of party, will compete against each other. For the first time in the U.S., the top four finishers per race, instead of the two major parties’ nominees, will advance to the general election, when a ranked choice general election in November will determine the winners.
The race features incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski, Republican Kelly Tshibaka, Democrat Patricia Chesbro, and 16 other contenders. While the outcome of this election will remain unknown until all the votes are counted, (keep in mind, we won’t have the final results for 15 days while they count mail-in ballots from overseas military and the 82% of the state’s voters who live in homes inaccessible by road, all protected by an existing law requiring the waiting period to ensure every vote is counted), the fact that the state’s voters chose the top-four primary election model in 2020 to make their representatives, well, more representative, is a victory in and of itself.
The other election on Tuesday is a ranked choice special general election to fill the Congressional House seat of the late Rep. Don Young for the remainder of his term. Voters will use ranked choice voting (RCV) to determine the winner among three candidates, as the fourth general-election candidate who qualified from June’s primary withdrew.
The state is ready for this. Why? Well, RCV is proven, and the voters who’ve used it say they like it and understand it. Almost 11 million voting-age Americans live in jurisdictions that use or plan to use ranked choice voting in upcoming elections, covering 55 states, cities, and counties in all, including first Maine and now Alaska. The numbers don’t lie: upwards of three-fourths of voters in New York City, in more than 20 cities in Utah, and in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District had positive takeaways about the system.
Alaska isn’t the only state to hold a primary in the country this week. In fact, this week, the country hit the 40-state mark for primaries on the books. Now, the countdown for the last 10 primaries left to go, including Alaska, kicks off.
What’ve we learned so far? Well, 70.3 percent of the next House of Representatives has already been effectively elected in primaries for “safe” seats. Why does that matter? Because it means that only 6.6 percent of age-eligible American voters have participated in those elections. In short, primary voters have already decided who will win during the general elections for the majority of the U.S. House.
So, what does that mean for the country? An even less accountable Congress — the least accountable one ever. And this is the Primary Problem. But, we’re not in the business of leaving things on a negative note. The bottom line here is that states such as Alaska are the shining star in the dark night, proving there’s an opportunity to change course and solve one of the biggest threats to our democracy.