In his recent letter to ADN (“Alternate History,” Nov. 27), Jeff Olsen misused voting results from Abraham Lincoln’s election to make a case against ranked choice voting. Sounds like a strange connection, doesn’t it? Here’s the deal.
Olsen correctly reported that Lincoln won the election with a plurality of the vote at 39.8% versus Stephen A. Douglas at 29.5%. Two other candidates, John Bell and John Breckenridge, received smaller percentages. Olsen then went on to assign portions of Bell’s and Breckenridge’s votes in accordance with ranked choice voting methods. The flaw in his logic resulted when he assumed Bell and Breckenridge were both proponents of slavery. In reality, Bell was neutral on slavery and campaigned to make it a non-issue.
When Olsen tallied up the results for Breckenridge and Bell, he assigned 75% of both candidates votes to Douglas and 25% to Lincoln. Since Bell was not the racist slaveholder that Olsen made him out to be, a fairer allocation of the ranked choice votes would have been 50% to each candidate. Had that been done, Lincoln would still end up the winner with a little over half the vote.
Sorry for my convoluted analysis, but I don’t think Olsen is correct when he indicted ranked choice voting the way he did. Nor do I agree that Lisa Murkowski and Mary Peltola would have lost their races without the benefit of ranked choice voting. Any way you measure it, Murkowski and Peltola are head and shoulders above their competition.
— Mike Jens
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