By ALEX GIMARC
The results for Alaska’s first rank choice election were announced on Aug. 31, with Mary Peltola being the first Democrat elected to represent Alaska in the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly half a century.
A look at the numbers is instructive. From the Division of Elections results:
After round 1, Peltola held around a 17,000-vote lead over second-place Sarah Palin, and a 22,000-vote lead over Nick Begich III. Around 40% of all voters voted for Peltola, the Democrat, while 60% voted for a pair of Republican candidates.
In the second ranked-choice round, Nick Begich was the first candidate out, with his votes going to whomever was marked second on their ballots. Once that total was computed, the total was shrunk by the 11,222 votes Begich got in the initial round when voters didn’t make a second choice. This dropped the total by 6%. Remember that ranked choice voting is a subtraction problem, which is precisely what we saw Wednesday.
On the Begich ballots, 27,042 were transferred to Palin, around 50% of the total. Another 15,445, around 29% went to Peltola. Finally, 11,222 ballots were exhausted (didn’t have a second vote), or around 21% of the total.
In the end, after the ranked-choice round, Peltola won by 5,219, just under 3% of the remaining 177,193 vote. There were 3,743 blank and overvoted ballots in the ranked-choice round. I do not know how this total was folded into the final number.
What happened? We learned several lessons. First and foremost is that a single, bullet vote for a single candidate is a fool’s errand. Like I and others pointed out previously, a bullet vote is the functional equivalent of half a vote for whomever is left. Anyone telling you otherwise is at best woefully under-informed.
Second and perhaps more importantly is that there are a LOT of Republicans out there still mad at Palin for her role in removing Sen. Ted Stevens from office in 2008, when she demanded he resign following a fraudulent prosecution. They are still mad at her for endorsing Bill Walker for governor rather than incumbent Gob. Sean Parnell in 2014.
These actions stand out before any discussion about the breathtaking expansion of state government while she was governor and raising taxes on the oil and natural gas producers sky high.
Clearly, Sarah has some fence mending to do between now and November. Like all lifestyle choices, it remains to be seen if she understands how this new world works sufficiently to do that. My guess is not, based on her initial response.
Sarah’s first response to the loss? Demand Nick Begich drop out of the race for Congress. This is unhelpful, coming from a woman who has been instrumental in making sure Republicans don’t win statewide races over the last 14 years.
Sarah could have done what Begich did during debates, push rank the red on the second and third choices. She chose to be cute, refusing to answer the question while showing a ballot with no second or third choices marked. Instead, she told voters to only vote for her.
She helped turn three statewide elections since 2008 to democrats, U.S. Senate, Governor, and now U.S. House. Will there be a fourth?
Intentionally doing this is hardly the stuff of conservatism. As of this writing, it is roughly nine weeks until November. Sarah and her supporters have some work and “splainin” to do if they want to elect someone other than a Democrat to Congress. We will see if they are up to it.
Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He was a small business owner and Information Technology professional.