A leftist monthly newspaper, Sol De Medianoche, recently published an article instructing Alaskan Democrats on how to harness the state’s new ranked choice voting scheme in order to defeat surging conservative candidate Kelly Tshibaka. She is seeking to unseat U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski who has fallen out of favor with Alaska’s Republican Party for supporting a litany of anti-conservative policies.
Published last month, the article by Gabriel Dawson lays out a somewhat complicated strategy that requires Democrat voters to actually refrain from listing their top candidate as their first choice, which would typically be a Democrat such as Al Gross.
Under the new rules of ranked choice voting, Alaskans will first be asked to rank their top four candidates in the April 2022 primary. Every candidate, regardless of party, will be on a single ballot. The top four vote-getters will then go on to the general election.
The article suggests that Tshibaka opponents will only prevail “to the extent that there is a loose coalition” formed between Gross and Murkowski supporters.
For the Nov. 8, 2022, general election voters will then be asked to rank their top candidates, first through fourth. If no candidate gains a majority of first place votes in round one, the last-place finisher is eliminated and his or her second-choice votes are redistributed to the remaining three candidates. If there is still no candidate with a majority of votes, the process of elimination continues until one person wins a majority (which would consist of the winning candidate’s first-place votes along with any second-place votes that they were able to pick up from eliminated candidates).
Since four candidates will be listed in the general election, the prospect of an outright winner in round one is less likely. That means the second-choice votes listed under eliminated candidates are highly valued for those candidates who survive the first or second rounds.
The Sol De Medianoche article notes that the leading contenders for U.S. Senate are currently Republican Kelly Tshibaka, Democrat Al Gross and incumbent Sen. Murkowski – also a Republican.
This is one of the flaws initially highlighted by opponents of ranked choice voting – the possibility of manipulating the vote in order to defeat leading candidates.
In order for Democrats to defeat Tshibaka they need to list Murkowski as their first choice and Gross as their second, the newspaper explains.
Why shouldn’t Democrats initially vote for fellow Democrat Gross? According to the Sol De Medianche article, Democrats can’t afford to have Gross and Tshibaka as the top two vote getters with Murkowski being eliminated. That’s because it is very likely that Murkowski voters will list Tshibaka as their second choice (both are Republicans). If Murkowski were eliminated in rounds one or two, most of her second-place votes would likely go to Tshibaka rather than Gross, thereby giving Tshibaka the victory.
If, however, Gross (not Murkowski) is eliminated in round one, and all the Democrats who voted for Gross list Murkowski as their number two choice, Murkowski could defeat Tshibaka with second-choice votes from Gross voters.
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The Sol De Medianoche article suggests that Tshibaka opponents can only prevail “to the extent that there is a loose coalition” formed between Gross and Murkowski supporters. In other words, Democrats will need to actually vote for Murkowski as their number one choice, even if she is not their preferred candidate or even a member of their party.
The Murkowski camp surely knows this and will likely heavily recruit Democrats who favor Gross.
This is one of the flaws initially highlighted by opponents of ranked choice voting – the possibility of manipulating the vote in order to defeat leading conservative candidates.
Tshibaka, however, has overwhelming support from Republicans and conservative minded Alaskans. If she can convince these voters to back her in overwhelming numbers, she could win a majority in round one and avoid having to survive a challenging second or third round of vote counting.
Alaskans narrowly approved ranked choice voting in the November 2020 general election.