OPINION: Ranked choice foes are trying to blame others for their losses

It’s becoming an increasingly common tactic for election losers to blame anyone but themselves. The equivalent of “the dog ate my homework,” and about as childish.

In Alaska, that means several campaign losers and their supporters blame their defeat on ranked choice voting, which took effect for the 2022 elections after the public voted in favor of the change in 2020.

But rather than actually do their homework, learn from their losses, and put up candidates who appeal to a broader range of voters, which is the smart way to win elections, the losers want to deny all Alaskans the ability to select from the best of everyone on the ballot, not just those screened for the election by a closed political party system.

And now, in 2024, Alaskans may have to decide again whether ranked choice voting is better than political party primaries to select the general election finalists. It looks like opponents of the voting system have turned in enough petition signatures to put the question on the 2024 statewide ballot, asking voters to repeal their 2020 decision.

The advocates of a re-vote argue that ranked choice ballots are confusing. Many call it “corrupt” — a favorite word when someone does not like the results. They have no proof of corruption or misdeeds, but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone these days. The group pushing the repeal vote has adopted the slogan: “Our Mission is to Return Alaskan Elections to Alaskans.”

Yet, in fact, their aim is to take elections away from Alaskans and return them to political parties — the Republican Party in particular.

Alaska Republicans used to keep their primary elections closed to anyone registered with another party. That’s their right, I suppose, but voters in 2020 approved a better idea. The state, by the way, paid the bills for those closed primaries, which gives the public a say in the process.


The restricted primaries produced some pretty hardcore conservative candidates who appealed to the party’s base, but not many other voters. It heightened divisive politics. It emphasized pledges and promises that promoted rigid politics. It pushed away Republican candidates who were willing to work for all Alaskans, not just those endorsed by the party.

Ranked choice voting is designed to tone down partisanship by putting all parties’ candidates into one primary with the top four vote-getters advancing to the general election, where voters can rank the four in order of preference. The candidate with the most support from the most voters wins.

There’s nothing evil or corrupt about that; it’s just a better way of electing people who put the state and its residents ahead of party loyalty. It’s also a better way to reflect Alaskans’ independence — almost 60% of registered voters in the state are listed as nonpartisan or independent.

Ranked choice voting gives those 60%, and everyone else, a better shot at voting for their preferred candidates. There is no reason to change something as fair as that.

Larry Persily is a longtime Alaska journalist, with breaks for federal, state and municipal public policy work in Alaska and Washington, D.C. He lives in Anchorage and is publisher of the Wrangell Sentinel weekly newspaper.

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Larry Persily

Larry Persily is a longtime Alaska journalist, with breaks for federal, state and municipal service in oil and gas, taxes and fiscal policy work. He currently is publisher of the Wrangell Sentinel weekly newspaper.