By Quinn Townsend and Sarah Montalbano – Alaska Policy Forum

The ideal election ballot makes choices clear and preferences easy to express. In Alaska, unfortunately, the state’s new ranked-choice voting (RCV) system can be a complicated disincentive. The work required to be an informed voter and rank all candidates on the ballot requires more time, interest, and information than many voters have to spare. Confronting voters with a multitude of candidates can dissuade them from voting in certain races or, in some cases, from voting at all.

Alaska’s RCV ballot instructs voters to rank up to four candidates per office, with an optional write-in for each. Voters must have an informed opinion about every candidate — and every candidate’s policy positions — to rank them responsibly. In a traditional election, voters’ necessary research is typically limited to the two candidates for each state or national office who have a chance of winning. That totals 10 or 12 candidates, depending on which offices are on the ballot. With RCV, Alaskans now must conduct research to rank up to four candidates for each open seat.

Research shows that RCV is likely to decrease voter turnout, particularly among minority groups and those whose first language is not English.

In 2022, most Alaskans are voting for five offices in the general election: governor and lieutenant governor, state representative, state senator, U.S. representative, and U.S. senator. Depending how many candidates are running for each seat in a district, some voters will need to research and form opinions about 20 to 24 different candidates in order to decide their preferences between them.

The number of candidates is only the start of the complexity. There are 24 ways to rank four candidates in a single race, not including permutations that leave spaces blank. Voters don’t merely have to research candidates they might like or decide between frontrunners; they must research all of them to determine preferences and put them in rank order relative to each other. And that’s not considering ballot questions and judicial retention questions on the flip side of the ballot.

Prior to RCV’s adoption, the 2018 ballot only tasked voters to research up to 10 candidates for four races in the general election, not including judges: governor and lieutenant governor, state representative, state senator, and U.S. representative. Not all these offices are on every ballot due to term lengths, and the Libertarian Party and a petition nominee increased the number of choices in the governor/lieutenant governor race, so in any given general election, voters would have to be familiar with fewer than 10 candidates.

Even so, being an informed voter in a traditional election is a tall order for Alaskans who are busy living their lives without worrying about politics. In 2018, the most recent general election that did not include a U.S. presidential race, only 54.6% of eligible voters in Alaska cast ballots. In the long run, RCV may depress turnout by discouraging voters who don’t feel knowledgeable enough to make informed decisions about every candidate in every race.  For most, politics competes with work and parenting, caring for sick or aged family members, and managing personal struggles.

As Alaska Policy Forum has noted before, research has found that RCV is likely to decrease voter turnout, particularly among minority groups and those whose first language is not English. RCV also increases the gap between likely voters and the rest of the population, discouraging more-casual voters.

The informational tools available to voters illustrate the complexities. The candidate statements available on the Division of Elections website provide their official statement and websites. These statements are simply what each candidate wants voters to know — not necessarily the information that voters want to know. They might be sufficient to find the candidate who would best represent a voter, but not to rank them by shades of difference.

Increasing the difficulty of being an informed voter is a recipe for reducing voter turnout and electing unrepresentative candidates who don’t reflect the will of the people.

Other entities, such as newspapers and nonprofits, provide guides to compare candidates across a variety of questions. However, voters must then do the work to uncover the biases of those organizations. The more numerous and subtle the decision, the more voters must go right to the source and track the actions of every candidate — all 20 or more of them.

Being an informed voter is difficult enough when the system narrows the choice down to two or a few options. RCV requires voters to develop extensive knowledge about 20+ candidates at a time. While advocates argue that they are willing to take on the costs of ranking responsibly and insist others should be, as well, many voters do not have the time, interest, or information to tackle this mind-boggling task of prioritization.

Increasing the difficulty of being an informed voter is a recipe for reducing voter turnout and electing unrepresentative candidates who don’t reflect the will of the people.

The views expressed here are those of the authors.

Confusing Ranked Choice Voting overburdens Alaska voters & may dampen turnout


  • Elizabeth Henry says:

    I am an extremely busy Alaskan running a business and yet I manage to have time to research candidates. RCV is a crock of that awful “you know what” and yes, we need to eliminate it asap, but to not vote because of it is pure laziness and pride. “Wah, wah, wah, I don’t like ranked choice voting so a I am no going to vote” ….. well then you are handing over power and the running of our government to the left, who indeed foisted this upon us, and doing exactly what the want, and expect, you to do. In order to get rid of RCV we need conservatives in office. To get conservatives into office, conservatives need to vote for them. if you stay home to try to prove some useless point then you may thank yourself for the undesirable outcome. If you truly are too lazy to do the minimal research on candidates, then at least call a friend or family member whom you trust and ask them about the candidates. RANK THE RED.

  • Akdale says:

    really were that dumb… not so sure. and if that lowers turnout significantly.. whats that say about our future? better get your apocolyps kits now.

  • Clark says:

    It’s funny you guys act like being able to rank the candidates from most to least favorite is somehow so complicated that Alaskans are too stupid to understand it.

    Alaskans CHOSE to switch to ranked choice voting in 2020. The recent primary had the third highest voter turnout in Alaska history. The general will probably have even more due to many Democrats being energized by Pelota’s win.

    If anything has reduced Rep voter turnout, it’s Trumps big lie that our elections aren’t safe/secure. He didnt care about voter turnout because he planned to try his coup from the start. He cost your side control of all 3 chambers, and hes STILL undermining you with the lies.

    • Mary says:

      I do not believe Alaskans chose RCV… If you had watched the counter on election night, you would have seen the same stop and speed backwards just as happened in Georgia, Pennsylvania, etal. Dominion and Murkowski selected RCV not Alaskans.

      • Sterling Crone says:

        Exactly Mary! I watched it with my own eyes. Not just that, our voter turnout is what, 7% or so? So 7% of us chose it.
        Anyone who FAILS TO SEE the corruption in our systems judicial, educational, legal, political, financial, and medical is in our face collectively and that it is all connected , is deaf, dumbed down, and blind. “covid” was the planet-wide mechanism for a very big, well organized, decades long plan.

    • Kenneth L. Wells says:

      No, we did not vote for it, Mr. Clark. I do not know anyone who voted for it. I do not know anyone who knows anybody who voted for it.
      We do know the Murkowski was involved somehow. We do know there were election shenanigans going on in Anchorage during that vote. Rank was designed by cheaters to facilitate cheating.

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    Clark, if Alaskans had understood ranked choice voting in 2020, it would not have had a chance of passing. There was so much going on in 2020 and people were absorbed with the health crisis – lockdowns, masks, family and friends getting ill and/or dying, people losing their jobs and getting kicked out of their homes. Putting ranked choice voting on the 2020 ballot worked out perfectly for the demorats didn’t it??? When Conservatives (and I am not including Trump in this conversation) take back the house and the senate, ranked choice voting is going to be addressed – you can count on that. Conservatives understand that THE PEOPLE of our great state DO HAVE THE FINAL SAY SO. Humanity-loving People Will Take Back Control, drive the demons out and get rid of the crooked systems that have been put in place.

  • Clark says:

    Maybe you werent paying much attention?

    The vote passed by a slim majority, but it did pass. That IS the will of the Alaskan people. Citing lies about Dominion machines completely undermines your credibility. The vote was audited and HAND COUNTED, and the tally from the vote machines was only 24 votes different than the hand count. 24 out of 340,000 votes.

    I do remember the vote being interesting though. We went to the mall to vote and the line was 5 hours long. So we went to the courthouse instead and the line was only 20 mins long.

    The polling data in the primaries showed peiple had no problems understanding how ranked choice works. You couldnt watch tv for 5 minutes without seeing a commercial explaining how it works. And every single one of those election workers were available to explain it if you werent sure.

    Your problem is you are trying to mix politics and religion. Demons, really? The Bible says that the King(President) is ordained by God and that his law is righteous in the eyes of the Lord. So it wouldnt matter if Hitler himself had won the election…the Christian religion says he is there because God says so. Thanks for playing!

    • Friend of Humanity says:

      Biden won by a slim majority…so it is said. B.S. Trump won and this has been proven over and over again; but, the left will not accept it. Ranked Choice Voting was not presented in a manner that was understood, so if it “did pass by a slim majority,” it is only because it was not understood. People have had their eyes opened up to how fraudulent ranked choice voting is! Sarah Palin had the most votes for the congressional seat and she should have been the one there right now. However, due to the manipulative ranked choice voting, the person who got the least amount of votes is the one in that seat. People do not approve of the ranked choice voting and when this is all said and done, we will go back to voting for one person ONLY. Thanks for playing!

  • Anon says:

    With the exception of the red rinos …. Vote red only
    Vote in person

  • nevergiveout says:

    My sarcastic congratulations to Lisa Murkowski for pushing for this type of voting. Two of her aides have said, “oh no, it wasn’t for polly purebred reasons, but to …

  • Truth Network says:

    Can someone please explain to me how Ranked Choice Voting is confusing?

    When I buy peanut butter at the grocery store I have no problem ranking between Jif, Skippy, and Newman’s Own. When I buy ice-cream it’s easy to rank chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

    Who exactly is having trouble ranking a few congressional candidates? The complaints I’ve seen have centered around an assumption that people will vote party-line. Republicans I know explicitly did not include Sarah Palin because they view her unfit for any office, much less that of congressional representative.

    • Brian says:

      Presumably you are only choosing one brand of peanut butter when you shop. The difficulty comes in people understanding that to only make one choice splits the conservative vote. It is necessary to make a second choice (at least) in case your first choice is eliminated from the election so your vote can then go to your second choice. Had people done this in the last special election, a conservative would be in office. 60% of people voted for a republican but a democrat won because conservative voters did not enter a second choice. Your analogy of choosing peanut butter or ice cream is lacking.

  • ML, just common sense says:

    If you want to make Rank Choice voting invalid, just do what you have always done. Vote for one candidate, and one only for every each candidate. They can’t move your votes around as they did last time, and it just invalidates this questionable type of voting. So just choose ONE!

    • Brian says:

      That does not make Ranked Choice Voting invalid. It makes your vote invalid and that is exactly what the leftists who pushed Ranked Choice Voting are counting on you doing. Your refusal to participate in Ranked Choice Voting virtually guarantees their winning as it did in the special election. You make your one choice and then if that candidate is eliminated, you have no vote in the remaining two. If you make your “first choice” and that person is eliminated, your vote passes to your “second choice”. Being stubborn or intentionally ignorant of how ranked choice voting works is what the liberals are hoping for from us “ignorant masses”. Participate in Ranked Choice Voting by making more than one choice until we can get rid of it or enjoy the benefit of receiving the appreciation from the subversive leftists who are trying to destroy our country.

  • Kenneth L Wells says:

    It’s not confusing. It’s obfuscating, which is different. It’s a system designed by cheaters to facilitate cheating.

  • Harold Baines says:

    Research has shown that Ranked Choice Voting has disenfranchised voters and should be abolished. It disenfranchises stupid people who can’t figure out how to rank the candidates in the order they would like them. Examples: “I’ll only vote for one, why would anyone vote for someone they don’t want in office.”
    “I’ll vote for Donald Duck.”
    “I’ll ‘rank the red’ except for the ten elections that Dan Fagan says to only vote for one.”