Ask Bernadette: If everyone wrote in random names to fill out their ranked choice ballot, could the leading candidate not reach the winning 50+1?


Editor’s note: This is the fifth in our series of questions about ranked choice voting, which is part of the new voting methodology brought to Alaska by Ballot Measure 2 via Alaskans for Better Elections. Voters continue to ask questions about how to understand the general election ballot, which they will face for the first time on the reverse side of the Aug. 16 primary ballot. The special general election question will determine who fills out the remainder of Congressman Don Young’s term in office. At the end of this Q&A, you can find previous editions of this series and get more of your questions answered by posing questions in the comment section.

Our answers are given by election expert Bernadette Wilson, state director of Americans for Prosperity Alaska. While Wilson does not necessarily support the ranked choice voting system, she has studied it enough to become an expert.

Question: If all voters wrote in random names to fill out our ranks on the ranked choice ballot, is it possible the final leader would not meet the 50%+1 target? Would they still win, or would there have to be a runoff?

Bernadette Wilson: While this is a theoretical question and it is unlikely that everyone would write in names on the write-in line that is on the ballot, there is no scenario in which this would lead to yet another runoff election. It’s mathematically impossible because the universe of eligible ballots shrinks with each round of counting.

If you vote for a write-in candidate and that same write-in candidate gets the least amount of votes, your write-in choice would be disregarded and your second choice would be in the spot to be counted in the next round of counting.

If at any point in the counting process, your choice of candidate gets disqualified from the counting due to lack of votes, and simultaneously you have not voted for another candidate, then your ballot gets disregarded. Your ballot is exhausted.

Each time a ballot gets disregarded (or “thrown out“) the total number of ballots left shrinks to a new universe. The number needed to win is once again 50% + 1, but the total number of ballots being counted is now fewer than the previous round of counting.

For example, let’s assume we look at a cohort of 100 people’s votes out of 1,000 votes cast. Out of those 100 votes, let’s assume that they all made the same first choice, but that same first choice gets the least amount of votes among the 1,000 voters in the first round of counting and therefore that particular candidate gets disqualified. If only 20 people out of that 100 voted for a second choice, that means that 80 people have now essentially not voted in the second round of counting, reducing the total number of votes needed to win.

Regardless of how many individuals choose to write in a candidate’s name, the process for counting ballots remains the same. The Elections Division is looking for 50% + 1 of the total number of votes that are in play in each particular round of counting.

The bottom line: When the election is all said and done, the Division of Elections is not looking for 50% +1 of the total number of ballots that were originally cast. It is only 50% + 1 of the ballots that are in play in the final round of counting.

Dive deeper: More information on how ranked choice voting works will be at this free Aug. 4 event at the Wilda Marston Theater in the Loussac Library at 36th Ave. and Denali Street. Parking is free and the event is free:

Watch Bernadette Wilson explain how ranked choice voting works at this link:

Previous questions:

Ask Bernadette: Ranked choice voting Q&A series

Ask Bernadette: What are the ramifications of voting for just one person on a ranked choice ballot?


  1. There is no 50+1 requirement. If someone reaches 50+1 in First or Second Round they are the winner. Once the field is down to two candidates the winner is the candidate with the most votes regardless of whether they reach a 50 percent threshold.

    • If there are only two candidates remaining, then the winner is still 50+1 of the remaining ballets. No winner is 50/50, thus they need 50+1. 50+1 is required in all steps of the process, if we had 4 candidates then we could have three rounds total.

    • When you’re down to two candidates, then mathematically one of the candidates necessarily has at least 50%.

      If you need a computer to figure the winner, it is not a transparent election.

    • If they are down to two candidates, one of them has to have 50%+1 or there is an exact tie. There is no way to have less than 50%+1 with two people if it’s not a tie….

    • Absolutely true. It isn’t helpful that Bernadette refers to “50% +1” in any rounds following the first round. She said: “The bottom line: When the election is all said and done, the Division of Elections is not looking for 50% +1 of the total number of ballots that were originally cast. It is only 50% + 1 of the ballots that are in play in the final round of counting.”
      But she SHOULD have said: “If no candidate reaches 50%+1 in the first round, then candidates who receive the least votes in rounds one, two, and (if there are 4 candidates) three are eliminated and votes redistributed until there are two candidates left. When two candidates are left (this is the final round), whichever candidate has the largest number of valid votes wins.”

  2. In other words, (50% +1 of the total number of ballots originally cast) minus (50% + 1 of the ballots in play) equals (the number of voters disenfranchised by ranked-choice voting)?
    This assumes ranked-choice voting will work the way Ms. Bernadette says it should work and the proprietary Dominion vote-tabulation process is 100% accurate.
    None of these things inspires confidence in Alaska’s electoral system.

  3. I can’t see it passing if voters don’t understand it. Vote for 1 person and be done. Make it simple. Voting shouldn’t be complicated

  4. So when my ballot is discarded I can sue the State of Alaska for suppressing my vote. Rank Choice needs to thrown out it is pure garbage.

  5. Sounds akin to the algorithmic shell-game programming used by casino gaming machines to take all your money. Except in this case the voting algorithm is gamed to install some tax-crazed Fabian who wants to take all your money. And your liberty. Either way, you lose.

  6. The current question posed is, “If everyone wrote in random names to fill out their ranked choice ballot, could the leading candidate not reach the winning 50+1?” This question is a silly waste of everyone’s time since it describes an event that will never happen. Another example would be, if death rays from Mars interfered with the voting machines would that upset the outcome?

    How about answering real questions as follows. Please explain, precisely how could a voter’s 4th-rank choice ever be utilized with only four candidates on the ballot? If your answer is as a write-in slot, then the question still stands; how could it ever be utilized?

    • “……..Please explain, precisely how could a voter’s 4th-rank choice ever be utilized with only four candidates on the ballot?……..”
      This question has been answered, with examples, in several articles from numerous sources in the past couple of months. It serves as an illustration of just how difficult it is to educate the public. The scam artists who devised the ranked voting ballot initiative counted on this reality to achieve their goal.
      No explanation is going to get through. You (and the rest of us with you) are just going to have to experience it…….and maybe multiple times……before reality sinks in.
      This entire ranked voting affair, along with SB91 and the nationwide “criminal justice reform” scam, illustrates how hopeless self governance is in a society filled with idiots and scam artists.

  7. If you vote for the same person in each of the 4 spots ( write in the same candidate that you voted for the 1st choice)for the 2nd 3 rd 4th your vote will be in play until the end. If you write on the same name as your first choice no other candidate gets any votes.

    • Mark, You said, “If you vote for the same person in each of the 4 spots… your vote will be in play until the end.” Nope.
      If your candidate is eliminated in any round (for example round one or two) then your ballot will be “exhausted” meaning your ballot will not have an influence on the outcome. Your tactic does not at all ensure your candidate stays in play. The only way your tactic would have any effect on the outcome is when two other candidates both get lower vote counts in rounds one and two.

      • If you vote for the same candidate no other candidate gets any votes from you to help them win by all these rounds. If I don’t put down any other candidates then they will not get any votes from me to help them out of second or third place to first place.

        • Yes, “If you vote for the same candidate no other candidate gets any votes.” If you voted for the winner, your strategy is sound. If your candidate does not win, and you dislike all the other candidates equally, no problem. But if your candidates are Best, Pretty Good, Horrible, and Terrible, I suggest you rank “Best” number one and then rank “Pretty Good second. Bullet voting may well hand the race to “Horrible” if many “Best” or “Pretty Good” voters follow your advice.

  8. Obviously, a write-in campaign can affect a ranked voting election. Lisa Murkowski won as a write-in candidate as an Independent against both the Republican and Democrat candidates. Not only did she have to campaign for that extraordinary back door win, but she had to school all the morons who voted for her on how to spell her name perfectly, because misspelling would be challenged in court. That event is likely the ver reason that her former campaign manager even pushed this ranked voting scheme on a ballot initiative; as her standing as a Republican eroded away with her backstabbing the party platform, she needed a more dependable back door into power.
    Hopefully in the future, after Murky pulls off another term under this election scam, her opponents can organize a write in scheme to finally rank her into retirement.

  9. What is the schedule for releasing results of a ranked choice vote? What if the write-in vote box gets the most votes (or some place that is not last) but is split among random people? Does that seriously delay the results from becoming public because of all the manual counting?

    • That’s what I am saying if we all write in the same candidate them there would be thousands of votes. We shouldn’t be told their name won’t count. Free and fair elections not this complex bs.

  10. Bernadette, Thanks loads for explaining how the total number of votes to win, 50%+1, could decrease as each round progresses. No one, no one, has explained this before. You are doing a great job of informing us on RCV. Keep it up. Thanks

  11. Instead of trying to figure out how to work the voting system, why not concentrate on putting forth candidates and policies that really appeal to voters instead?

  12. AS 15.15.365. Counting of write-in votes in general election.
    (a) Write-in votes on a general election ballot shall be counted for a candidate only if the aggregate of all votes cast for all write-in candidates for the particular office is
    (1) the highest number of votes received by any candidate for the office; or

    (2) the second highest number of votes received by any candidate and the difference between the total number of votes received by the candidate having the highest number of votes and the aggregate of all votes cast for all write-in candidates for the office is less than the percentage necessary for a recount at the state’s cost under AS 15.20.450.

    (b) Write-in votes that do not meet the requirements of this section may not be individually counted under this section.

    (c) If the director determines that the requirements of (a) of this section have been met, the director shall establish the date for counting those write-in votes, and the director, or a designee of the director, shall count all write-in ballots under AS 15.15.360(d).

    (d) This section does not apply to the counting of federal write-in absentee ballots submitted under 42 U.S.C. 1973ff.

    (e) Write-in ballots shall be counted by the director, or a designee of the director, in a public place at the location where write-in ballots are sent for counting following an election.

    • A write-in candidate needs to be approved before hand, while you can feel free to write-in any name you want, it won’t count unless the write-in candidate is already approved AND meets the conditions listed above.

      With rank choice restricting a write-in vote count to having the most aggregate votes or second most votes and be within the margin for an automatic recount seems unrealistic and is yet another area where those who drafted this nonsense have messed up our election system.

      The only write-in candidate that I’m aware of for the general Congressional seat is Chris Bye, who will be the candidate I write in and rank, hopefully he gets enough votes to trigger a count.

      • So write in the same name you see on the ballot. My understanding is we can write on who ever we want. The politicians can’t tell us who to vote for

        • Mark,
          You can write-in whoever you want, by law, unless they’ve been approved they won’t be counted.

        • Mark, you are correct that you can write in any name you want. You said correctly that “The politicians can’t tell us who to vote for.” However…
          If you write in any name you want, then ALL the names you write in will be discarded because they do not meet the criteria for a write-in candidate. True, by filling those ovals you can theoretically prevent some cheater from adding a vote to your unmarked ballot after you cast it. But don’t be fooled into thinking that doing so will help elect someone you prefer. In the count, it is as though you didn’t cast a vote in that round.

          • But if I write in the same name that I chose in the first round then that name would be counted in the rounds as long as I pick a possible winner and not mr Christmas.

        • Right now according to ‘ there are three certified write-in candidates Chris Bye (Registered Libertarian), Robert Ornelas (American Independent Party), and Ernest Thomas (Registered Democrat).

          I plan on writing-in Chris Bye, it helps that it’s an easy name to remember and spell.

          • Well if the government tells you they won’t count your write in then we need to get lawyers involved. Election are suppose to be free and fair. If I write Steve’s name down it should count period. If they are limiting the ability to vote for who you want. That would be illegal.

  13. I’m fascinated with the liberal “logic” that claims requiring Voter ID is racist and suppresses the vote, that developing a virtually incomprehensible and complicated system is somehow more “fair!”

    You cannot make this stuff up!

  14. What if a candidate gets 50% +1 in the first round, why wouldn’t they be considered the winner?

    • Hunter, you asked, “What if a candidate gets 50% +1 in the first round…?” As Bernadette explained, that candidate wins. End of story. Everybody goes home. RCV only arises when that scenario DOESN’T happen. The most likely outcome is that it WON’T. And THAT is why it is important to rank all the candidates listed until you get to the point that you don’t care anymore.
      For example, take the Begich-Peltola-Palin race. If you vote for Peltola, you might not care at all whether Begich beats Palin should Peltola be eliminated in the first round. But if you vote for Begich first, ask yourself whether it matters whether Palin or Peltola wins. If you don’t see any difference, leave your ballot with a single vote for your first choice and walk away. But if you like either Peltola or Palin even a LITTLE BIT more than the other, you should mark a second choice.
      As another writer correctly noted earlier, there is NO benefit of ranking all 3 candidates in a 4-way race. Maybe if one of your first three dies on election day it could make a difference, but I can’t see how your fourth-choice vote would ever have value otherwise. I’d like to see an example though.

  15. Apparently the legislature cannot overturn this absurd rule until two years after it passed. Since this was narrowly approved in 2020, that means the new legislature in January 2023 should make it PRIORITY 1 to get rid of this travesty.

    Alaskans need to ask every House and Senate candidate their position on overturning Ranked Choice Voting, and vote accordingly.

  16. I want to thank Suzanne for providing this platform and also every one who posted a comment above. Critical Thinking on display.

  17. I agree with you Robert Shenker. I hope that everyone who is going to vote for Donald Trump will vote for HIS first choice Sarah Palin. He came up here to campaign for people who he can TRUST in Washington when he wins in 2024. He chose Sarah and Kelly. Sarah has already gathered 29+% of the vote. She has been vetted from the top her head to the tips of her toes—there are no secrets. Any mistakes in the past are explainable and livable. Her detractors are very loud–especially Fagan, but they have to to keep their hatred in play—he has made a very good living from it. Others have too —All the media perks up when her name is mentioned, just look at the volume of comments here on MRK when her picture or name shows up. I am Voting Trump, I am Voting Sarah, and I am voting Kelly. It is a wining combination that can make America and Alaska Great again.

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