By Mark Bauer
Can ranked choice voting make politics interesting again? If early results from elections in Alaska this week are any indication, the answer is yes.
I should clarify that by “interesting” I don’t mean “entertaining.” Cable news bluster can make us believe that politics is a sport with different teams vying to dominate the other, but it’s not. And treating politics as such is what’s caused it to be so *un*interesting in the first place. The use of ranked choice voting in Alaska, however, is turning that on its head.
Part of what has made politics so uninteresting is how predictable the whole affair has become. Partisan talking heads on cable news regurgitate the same old party talking points, while members of the Twitter hivemind reshare and contribute their own indignant commentary. Not to mention that elections themselves have become so uninteresting as a result of gerrymandering, which has led to 94 percent of our 435 representatives running in “safe districts,” meaning they aren’t very competitive at all.
Don’t get me wrong. Predictability isn’t a bad thing. I like that when I turn the key in my car’s ignition that it turns on. I like that when I drive to the polling place to vote, volunteers will greet me and usher me to my booth to fill out a ballot. But human nature is far too chaotic, complex and nuanced to be churning out Republicans in Republican safe districts and Democrats in Democrat safe districts.
Which is why the Alaska special election is so interesting. Alaska is usually a reliably red state. To illustrate how conservative the state leans: Since its statehood, Alaskan voters have regularly supported Republican presidential candidates, with the lone exception occurring in 1964 when Alaskans voted for Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson. Yet, as of the first round of tabulation in this special election, a Democrat currently leads the 3-candidate field for the seat vacated when longtime representative Don Young, a Republican, died in March.
With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Democrat Mary Peltola leads with 38 percent of the vote compared to former Governor Sarah Palin and Republican Nick Begich, who garnered 31.9 and 28.6 percent, respectively.
The race is still anyone’s game. In order to win, a candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the vote.. If no clear winner is determined after counting the first round, then second-round votes will be tabulated based on how voters ranked their choices when they submitted ballots.
By the time all votes and rounds are counted, this lone House seat may very well remain red, but it could also flip blue. Either way we won’t know that for a couple more weeks. And that is interesting indeed.
Mark Bauer is a producer, entrepreneur, day trader and former Independent candidate for Congress in Texas. Previously he spent 10 years as a legal journalist covering the legal market in Texas and regulatory issues in Washington DC.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Rank the Vote, its members, supporters, funders, or affiliates.