Alaskans are ready for our new election system

As Alaskans, we are used to adjusting on the fly to overcome unexpected challenges. Whether it’s navigating through a sudden snowstorm or mending a fishing rod with duct tape to limit out on reds, we know how to make the most of unexpected tests.

The summer special election to fill the vacancy in the U.S. House of Representatives created by the untimely death of Congressman Don Young is no exception.

In 2020, voters approved changes to the election system to give every Alaskan more voice and choice in selecting their representatives. Originally set to be used for the first time in the August primary and November general elections, the sudden passing of Congressman Young means the new election system will be used earlier than expected.

But rather than view this as a problem, this is an opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of the system.

The U.S. Constitution requires a special election to fill a vacancy in the House of Representatives. It is, after all, the People’s House. The reforms adopted with Ballot Measure 2 ensure that the power to pick the candidates is vested with the people, instead of party leaders behind closed doors.

However, the timeline under the old and new system remains the same.

Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer and the Division of Elections last week announced a special primary election June 11, followed by a special general election Aug. 16 to fill the House seat for the remainder of Congressman Young’s term. We applaud their efforts to ensure a secure and convenient process for conducting the special election, which will help increase voter participation.


The decision to use vote-by-mail with pre-paid return postage in the special primary makes it easier for every registered voter to participate.

This is our first opportunity to use the new voting system, so education and community engagement are critical to ensure everyone knows how to fill out their ballot. But under this system, we can be assured that a majority of Alaskans support the person who represents us in our nation’s Capitol. With Alaska having a single seat in the U.S. House, the intent of voters is paramount.

The system is simple: The primary will now be open to all voters, and every voter will get the same ballot that includes every candidate, regardless of party. Each voter will choose their one favorite candidate, and the top four vote-getters will advance to the general election. In the general election, voters can rank the four finalists in order of preference and an instant runoff will be used to elect the majority winner.

Alaska is ready. Alaskans for Better Elections is working nonstop across the state to provide education and support the efforts of the Division of Elections to ensure a fair, transparent, and nonpartisan implementation of the citizens’ initiative.

It is essential for all of us to learn about the new Alaska-style election system and how to list our candidate preferences using a ranked ballot — just as it is the responsibility of every voter to educate themselves on the candidates. Thankfully, there are resources available to provide the facts about this year’s elections. A great place to start is the Division of Elections’ website and we have more information at AlaskansForBetterElections.com. An informed voter is a good voter and that’s good for Alaska.

Jason Grenn is a fourth-generation Alaskan and former independent Alaska state representative. He now serves as the executive director for Alaskans for Better Elections.