[guest post by Dana]
Last night, Democrat and Native Alaskan Mary Peltola defeated Trump-endorsed Sarah Palin in a special general election to fill the vacancy left by Rep. Don Young, a long-serving Republican in the House, who passed away in March 2022.
This was the first election in Alaska to use rank-choice voting, a measure adopted by votes in 2020:
Voters pick their member of Congress by ranking the candidates, and a write-in candidate if they choose to do so, in order of preference. If a candidate wins a majority of votes on the first round, he or she wins the race. But if no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and his or her supporters’ second-choice votes will go to the remaining candidates. The rounds continue until two candidates are left, and the candidate with the most votes wins.
As of Thursday morning, with 93% of votes counted in the ranked choice results, Peltola defeated Palin 51.5% to 48.5%.
According to the Alaska Division of Elections, the system benefits voters. “By ranking multiple candidates, you can still have a voice in who gets elected even if your top choice does not win,” its website says. “Ranking multiple candidates ensures your vote will go toward your second, third, fourth, or fifth choice if your top choice is eliminated, giving you more voice in who wins.”
After Palin’s defeat, she criticized the new voting system
…saying in a statement that it was a “mistake” that was originally “sold as the way to make elections better reflect the will of the people.” But now, she said, Alaska and the rest of America see “the exact opposite is true.”
“The people of Alaska do not want the destructive democrat agenda to rule our land and our lives, but that’s what resulted from someone’s experiment with this new crazy, convoluted, confusing ranked-choice voting system,” she said. “It’s effectively disenfranchised 60% of Alaska voters.”
Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas also cast doubt on the election outcome because something just had to have been rigged:
60% of Alaska voters voted for a Republican, but thanks to a convoluted process and ballot exhaustion—which disenfranchises voters—a Democrat "won."
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) September 1, 2022
Of course, it can no longer be a clean election loss when a Trump-endorsed candidate fails to win. And there’s no way that Alaskan voters simply found the challenger more appealing and a better representative of their political views.
Other Republicans took Cotton to task for his claims:
Ranked choice voting gives all Americans a voice and not the extremes of a party. So youd be outta luck. No wonder you don’t like it https://t.co/0kmF3ihBZG
— Adam Kinzinger🇺🇦🇺🇸✌️ (@AdamKinzinger) September 1, 2022
Ironically, the very system that Palin and Cotton criticize could possibly allow her a win in November: Peltola, Palin and Begich are all competing to win a full term in the House in the November 8 general election. They advanced from an August 16 nonpartisan primary along with Libertarian candidate Chris Bye.
Though Palin has not yet made what many believed would be a political comeback, it is still possible she could win the seat in November under the ranked-choice voting system.