The Fairbanks North Star Borough will consider an ordinance at its April 22 meeting, which looks to approve the controversial ranked choice voting system, similar to what the State of Alaska will use for the first time in the next statewide primary election in 2022.

Ranked choice voting is highly controversial and Alaskans were almost evenly split in voting to adopt the new voting method. In the last general election 50.5% of Alaskans voted to approve ranked choice voting while 49.5% rejected it.

Alaska is the only the second state to approve ranked choice voting for statewide elections.

The Fairbanks proposal would apply to all municipal elections – mayoral, Assembly and school board races. Fairbanks currently uses the traditional voting system where the candidate with the greatest number of votes wins if the candidate earns at least 40% of the vote. If not, there is a runoff between the top two vote getters.

Ranked choice voting does away with the traditional “one voter, one vote” method and instead asks voters to rank their top choices in order. If no candidate wins a majority of votes in the first round of tabulation, then the candidate with the least amount of first place votes is eliminated and the second-choice votes cast under that candidate’s name are awarded to all the other candidates who were listed as a second-choice votes. This process continues until one candidate receives a majority of votes.

Ranked choice voting has been criticized for adding unnecessary layers of complexity to the traditional voting method. Under this scheme, a candidate can win an election while not actually receiving the most first place votes.

Sponsors of the Fairbanks ordinance argue that it will save the borough money from having to fund runoff elections in tight races.


  • The April 22 meeting begins at 6 p.m. Click here to see the agenda.
  • Click here to read the ranked choice voting ordinance (No. 2021-17)
  • Click here for information on how to participate in the April 22 Assembly meeting.

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Fairbanks to debate ranked choice voting scheme for municipal elections

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.