I am a candidate for state House District 25. There were two of us in the primary. The incumbent won a clear majority. I assumed that I was out of the race but, because, of the ranked-choice vote, or RCV, open primary, we both move to the general election automatically, making the vote moot.
After discussions at a couple of family gatherings over the weekend, I called the Division of Elections in Juneau on Monday, Aug. 22. Contrary to what I believed regarding the outcome of the primary vote, I am not out of the race. On one level, this is simply nuts, given the disparity in votes.
Under the prior system, I would be out of the race.
On another level, the RCV diminishes any undue influence of party politics. In House District 25, the incumbent is the wife of the Republican House district chair. Further, given the incumbent’s voting record, the open primary undoubtedly benefited the incumbent.
With RCV, the more conservative candidate risks losing any advantage accrued in a restricted Republican primary. The same is true for the hard-left Democrat in their primary. Any advantage conferred by party affiliation is thereby diminished or even lost in the outcome. This effect dilutes the influence of both parties.
While I may get a “second” chance, it shows a complication that gives rise to confusion regarding the outcome of the primary vote. If a candidate in a race with four or fewer candidates received more than 50% of the primary vote, it would make sense to me that the candidate had eliminated the competition and the race for that office would be over.
Apparently, the purpose of the open-primary RCV is to reduce the competition for an office where there are more than four candidates to no more than four for the general election. In those races with four or fewer candidates, those candidates automatically move on to the general election, regardless of the primary vote.
The open primary election seems to be no more than a poll for those races with four or fewer candidates for an office. In those cases, should the primary votes be recorded, if doing so prejudices them in the general election?
Conversely, the “poll” effect is not necessarily a bad outcome, as it shows a candidate where they stand at the time of the primary vote and gives them an opportunity to improve on their showing, if need be.
Had the primary ballot been limited only to those races with more than four candidates, or even listed all of the races, but only allowed voting for those offices with more than four candidates, confusion might have been reduced.
Those candidate names without a voting bubble on the primary ballot could have let voters know that those candidate(s) were moving to the general election automatically and that a vote was moot.
In my discussions with family members and friends of the family over the weekend, there was no consensus on the purpose or outcome of the primary election. No one could state categorically that I was eliminated from the race. These were all people who are “super” voters.
Another question needing a definitive answer is: If there were no more than four candidates for each race statewide, would the primary be unnecessary for that election?
I believe that an unintended consequence of the RCV open primary will be to reduce the number of voters in the general election for those districts where there were four or fewer candidates for an office.
Another effect, good or bad, is certainly to weaken party influence over the outcome of an election.
Can we make this any less confusing? I think so, either as suggested above, or by eliminating the ranked voting altogether and returning to the former system, as flawed as it was.
I suspect the reason behind Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s implicit support for RCV was to diminish the influence of the political parties in primary and general elections.
Under RCV’s open primary, the will of the voter is ignored, except where there are more than four candidates for an office.
I think the Division of Elections did a decent job of trying to clarify a complex and confusing voting system. However, I still had to call them to get a clarification on my standing.
If you are confused about the ranked-choice vote, before you vote in November, call the Division of Elections at 907-465-4611.
Larry Wood is a candidate for House District 25 and a 67-year Alaskan living on Lazy Mountain near Palmer.
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