OPINION: In support of open primaries and ranked choice voting

At First Alaskans Institute, our mission is to ensure that true to identity, heritage and values Alaska Natives are informed and engaged in leading the decisions that shape the future.

Alaska Natives have never had a fair shake in the election process. From the very recent territorial days into statehood, elections have been used as a tool to disengage Native peoples from having a voice and leadership in the decisions that impact our lives. This includes the fact that the number of people who represent us and our voices has never been proportionate to our population size.

Open primaries and ranked choice voting have given us the opportunity to elect people who care about our issues, even if they’re not Alaska Native.

The elections system that voters established in 2020 makes candidates care about those who are outside of their party affiliations. Open primaries and ranked choice voting deepen our bench as Alaskans and provides more opportunities for Alaska Natives and people of color who now call Alaska home to run for office and get elected.

As a nonpartisan voter, I appreciate being able to vote for candidates regardless of party affiliation. I appreciate the option to rank or not rank certain candidates. I was able to control the process; no one else was selecting a candidate in a closed primary process that I wasn’t part of, then leaving me with the options they chose. I was able to cast my vote how I wanted.

We deserve candidates who will represent the voice of our community, our Native peoples, and who will do it with integrity. Instead of being limited at the primary and the general, the new elections system enables voters to look at the entire field.

Alaskans are smart. We have been able to live in a place that requires our innovation, deep thinking and understanding of context. For us as Natives, it’s reflected in our languages, the way we live our lives, and the deep, extensive knowledge of relationships, places, and people.


That’s Alaska; it’s always been a Native place, built on innovation, creativity, diversity and critical thinking — the ability to observe and take in lots of data and information, parse out the workable options then select the direction that helps us all the most. Open primaries and ranked choice voting are not complicated — they are part of a straightforward elections process that accounts for all voices.

La quen náay Liz Medicine Crow serves as First Alaskans Institute president and CEO.

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