On August 16 Alaska also held a special election to fill its at-large seat left vacant by the death of Don Young. The special election was subject to the ranked-choice voting system that Alaskans narrowly adopted by referendum in 2020. No candidate cleared the 50 percent plus 1 first-choice bar for election. Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich III ran second and third, respectively, to Democrat Mary Sattler Peltola in first-choice votes. As the Anchorage Daily News explained, “the race will be determined by the number of voters who ranked more than one candidate in the state’s first ranked choice vote.”

It only took two weeks for the ranked-choice system to work its wonders. The results are now in and Peltola has been declared the victor over Palin by three points. I borrow the tabulation below from Politico’s celebratory story on the outcome.

The tweet below reflects the operation of the ranked-choice system on the special election.

Peltola, Palin, and Begich also ran in that order in the open primary for the seat that will be on the ballot in November — Peltola with nearly 37 percent of the vote, Palin 30 percent and Begich 26 percent. Republican Tara Sweeney finished fourth at 3.75 percent, but she is withdrawing. Her place on the ballot will be taken by Libertarian Chris Bye, whose vote approached zero percent. Again, the outcome of the general election for the seat’s full term will be subject to the rotten ranked-choice system.

Alaska’s ranked-choice system may have the effect of inhibiting negative campaigning, yet negative campaigning is frequently the most informative and honest. Palin and Begich went after each other in the special election and will have the opportunity to do it again. Peltola commented on her special election victory in an interview with the Washington Post: “I think it…reveals that Alaskans are very tired of the bickering and the personal attacks.” Alaska voters need to revisit the ranked-choice system with the benefit of such a negative campaign directed against the system itself.

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