Democrat wins under Alaska’s new ranked-choice voting system

In a surprising development, The New York Times reported that Democrat Mary Peltola won Tuesday’s special election for Alaska’s lone congressional seat despite over 60% of primary voters casting a ballot for GOP candidates.

This was the first election featuring the state’s new ranked-choice approach to voting, a system that some observers are calling “a scam.”

GOP senator says ranked-choice ballot used to “rig elections”

Among them is Arkansas’ Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, who insisted in a tweet put out on Wednesday that ranked-choice ballots amount to “a scam to rig elections.”

The lawmaker went on to point out in a subsequent tweet how “60% of Alaska voters voted for a Republican, but thanks to a convoluted process and ballot exhaustion — which disenfranchises voters — a Democrat ‘won.'”

The Daily Wire explained that Alaska adopted a ranked-choice voting system in 2020, under which voters are asked to provide their first and second-choice candidates.

These votes are then tabulated in a series of rounds, a process that critics say is overly complex and has the potential to confuse voters.

In the event that no candidate take more than 50% of first choice votes, a second round of counting takes place in which the lowest ranking candidate is eliminated and his or her votes are then transferred to the candidate who was identified as the second choice selection. The rounds continue until a final victor is declared.

Democrats welcome result

The first round of voting for Alaska’s House seat took place on August 16 and Peltola received 39.7% of the vote while 30.9% went to former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin. A second Republican candidate, Nick Begich III, took 27.8%.

Yet despite a clear majority of voters backing Republicans, Peltola managed to get 51.5% of votes in the second round compared with 48.5% for Palin.

While Fox News reported that Palin said the outcome reflected a “convoluted” system, state Democratic party chair Michael Wenstrup released a statement welcoming the result.

“Alaskans have made clear they want a rational, steadfast, honest and caring voice speaking for them in Washington D.C., not opportunists and extremists associated with the Alaska Republican Party,” he said.