On March 18, as he was running for his 26th term of office, Congressman Don Young passed away. His death triggered a confluence of circumstances resulting in an extraordinary election process to replace him. On Nov. 8, Alaska will conduct its fourth election this year to select our lone U.S. congressional representative.
The state’s first experience with ranked choice voting was last month, in the special general election to fill the balance of Congressman Young’s term. Of the three candidates on the ballot, two were Republicans, including Alaska Republican Party-endorsed businessman Nick Begich and former Gov. Sarah Palin, and one Democrat, Mary Peltola. The Alaska Republican Party had encouraged voters to “rank the red,” meaning to fill out their rankings for the U.S. congressional race by ranking just the two Republican candidates and not marking the Democrat. If more of Nick’s voters had chosen Gov. Palin second, the way party leadership recommended, Gov. Palin would be serving the remainder of Congressman Young’s term, and we would have a Republican incumbent in our November U.S. congressional election. But that did not happen. Rather, following the second ballot ranking, Democrat Mary Peltola won the seat.
Thereafter, we heard from Republicans angry over ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting cannot be changed for this election. Ridding ourselves of ranked choice voting and the open primary starts on Nov. 9, only after the upcoming general election. First, Republicans must vote smart on Nov. 8, in the election system which currently exists. The party also received calls for us to demand that either Nick Begich or Gov. Palin withdraw from the November general election. The party supports Republicans; therefore, we did not ask either candidate to withdraw from the race.
Last Thursday, the Division of Elections provided factual data that the party has analyzed. It provided excellent insight into how Republicans can win back the U.S. congressional seat on Nov. 8. The elections division released anonymized data that showed how each and every ballot was ranked. This kind of data allows for in-depth analysis. Thus, the following facts were revealed:
- If Nick Begich makes it to the one-on-one round of voting, he wins regardless of his opponent.
- If Gov. Palin had been eliminated in the first round instead of Nick Begich, he would have beaten Mary Peltola by at least 4.5% of the vote.
- The second choice of Palin voters broke 59% for Nick Begich; 35% left their second choice blank.
We can win the seat back on Nov. 8 if we vote strategically. Based on the actual election data, the voting strategy to employ is clear: Palin voters should consider ranking Nick Begich first and Gov. Palin second, as the election data shows Nick Begich can beat Mary Peltola, but that Gov. Palin was not able to muster sufficient votes to beat the Democrat. Gov. Palin’s voters who left their second-choice candidate blank should consider ranking Nick Begich second. We must have our voters only vote for Republicans and leave the Democrat’s name blank.
Failure to follow the strategy outlined above risks having Nancy Pelosi remain as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ann Brown is the chairwoman of the Alaska Republican Party.
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