On Tuesday, Alaskan voters will test a new ranked-choice system for the first time for a general election, in a special race for the state’s single House seat. And they will participate in the state’s new open primary system, which was first rolled out in a special House primary in June.
Alaska’s unique electoral system, which voters approved in a 2020 ballot initiative, changes how the state administers primary and general elections. In primary contests, voters have the opportunity to choose from all candidates in a race, regardless of their party affiliation. Each voter will select only one candidate, but the four with the most votes will appear in the general ballot in November.
The new system could help three-term Senator Lisa Murkowski overcome Tuesday’s top challenge from Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican lawyer endorsed by former President Donald J. Trump, as the two women could move on in the fall. . Ms. Murkowski criticized Mr. Trump and his allies in Washington, calling on him to step down following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and voting to convict him during his impeachment trial.
Preferential voting, which only applies to general elections, could then prove essential to Murkowski’s electoral survival this fall. If the two women both run in the general election but neither candidate receives a majority of votes on Election Day, Democrats who include Ms Murkowski somewhere in their rankings could give her a boost over Ms. Tshibaka in the final count.
A poll in early July by Alaska Survey Research showed Ms Murkowski initially trailing Ms Tshibaka but winning in the third round, after two Democratic candidates were knocked out in a hypothetical general election.
Mr Trump slammed the system, calling it a “totally rigged deal” at a rally in Anchorage.
“And you know who put it on?” Lisa Murkowski set it up,” Mr. Trump said. He then claimed: ‘She knew she couldn’t win a direct election. So she went for a crazy ranking choice.
But Ms Murkowski did not publicly campaign for the ballot initiative, which voters narrowly approved. However, several of Ms Murkowski’s allies, including a former adviser and a super PAC donor who backed her, backed the initiative, according to The Anchorage Daily News.
Also on Tuesday, voters will rank the candidates who want to serve the rest of Rep. Don Young’s term in order of preference. Mr. Young died in March.
Three candidates that voters selected in a special primary earlier this year – two Republicans, Sarah Palin and Nick Begich III, and a Democrat, Mary Peltola – as well as some written candidates are competing for the only seat in the Alaska House for only five months. until Mr. Young’s term expires in January. A fourth contestant, Al Gross, finished in the top four but dropped out in June.
Voters can rank the three candidates in order of preference. If no candidate wins a majority, officials will weed out the last one and reallocate their supporters’ votes to voters’ second choices until one candidate gets at least 50 percent.
The ranked choice was first used in federal elections by Maine in 2018 and more recently by New York City in municipal races, to mixed reviews.