Ask Bernadette: If I vote for more than one candidate, am I essentially splitting my vote on the ranked choice ballot?

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This is the fourth in our series that will answer your questions about ranked choice voting. The subject expert is Bernadette Wilson, state director for Americans for Prosperity Alaska, who will answer questions about how to understand the new voting system that is in effect due to Ballot Measure 2, which was pushed on Alaska by Outside money from liberal entities. This series will continue until Aug. 16, the final date for the regular primary election and the special general election for the temporary placeholder for Alaska’s congressional seat.

Reader question: If I vote for more than one, am I essentially splitting my vote on the ranked choice ballot?

Bernadette Wilson: The short answer is no. If you vote for more than one candidate, your second pick is only being counted, or even looked at, so to speak, if your first choice is already out of the race.

If your candidate is already out due to lack of votes, only then would your second vote be counted. It’s as though your candidate was never in the race to begin with for this second round of voting. A fresh round of counting begins. If you’ve picked a second candidate, then the vote is counted.

It’s important to note here that if your first choice is cut from the race due to to lack of votes, and you have not cast a second choice, your ballot then gets thrown out for the second round of counting. This lowers the number of ballots in play in round two and therefore lowers the overall numbers of ballots that the ranked choice system needs to get 50% + 1.

Let’s say 100 people vote for a first choice: To win the first round, a candidate would need 51 votes to win (50% + 1).

Now let’s say out of those 100 original voters only half decide to vote for a second choice. 50 people have now participated in the second round. This means to win in round 2, a candidate now only needs 26 votes to win. The total number of votes needed to win is now lower because fewer people have opted to participate in that (round) election.

It’s important to understand that if you rank more than one candidate, not all of your choices are being counted in every round of counting.

Resetting your mind and viewing each round of counting as though it’s a whole new election so to speak can help you as a voter think through this process.

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

https://www.facebook.com/AlaskaAFP/videos

Add your questions in the comment section for future editions of this series.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Do you remember hearing “If you don’t know which answer to choose, choose Answer C”, as you were preparing for multiple-choice tests in high school?

    The Achilles’ heel of instant-runoff voting (also called ranked-choice voting) is the notion that voters come to Election Day informed about each of the candidates on the ballot. Some do. Many do not. Even those who may know a lot about their first choice (and possibly their last choice if there is a candidate they really can’t stand) might know little or nothing about their second or third or fourth choice on the ballot.

    Once you get passed the first round of votes, instant-runoff voting gets more and more like that high school multiple-choice test, because with each round of voting, fewer voters are making decisions about candidates they know less and less about.

    Of course, many voters are hoping their first choice will win, so maybe they are not expecting their second or third or fourth votes will even matter.

    Unfortunately, when voters have to choose between a candidate they know nothing about, and a candidate they know “something” about, the candidate they know something about tends to be their “Answer C”. The thinking often is, “at least I know something about this person, even if the something is negative.”

    So which is more valuable to society, a well-informed vote, or a less-informed vote?

    Is 51% of voters casting lightly-informed votes for Candidate B worth more than 49% of voters casting well-informed votes for Candidate B?

    Ranked-Choice Voting doesn’t make the argument that it is, it just assumes that it is.

    It doesn’t guarantee, or even help, voters become better informed. In fact, by eliminating party primaries and effectively giving all legislative candidates a free pass to the general election, you eliminate whatever vetting would normally be taking place in the primary election process for down ballot races.

    Ironically, you also end up with the exact opposite problem in the statewide races, like when 50 candidates filed for the June special election. What voter has time to learn about and form an opinion on all 50 candidates that they will be voting on? Not the voters I talk to, that’s for sure.

    Whether there are few candidates or many, the jungle primary effectively serves to discourage the vetting of candidates. Those with Name ID go on to the general election, and those without Name ID will have a very hard time building it in a competition with dozens of other candidates.

    Just know that when it does this it is working exactly as intended; Lisa Murkowski passes the primary election and makes it to the general, as intended, and those candidates with the most money in the general have an even greater advantage over those who don’t, as intended.

    As an incumbent, I stand to benefit from this arrangement. But just because incumbents benefit from this new way of voting doesn’t mean Alaskans will benefit. Ballot Measure 2 needs to be repealed.

    The bill to repeal Ballot Measure 2 is HB381 (https://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Detail/32?Root=HB%20381).

    • Representative Eastman,

      Would you care to explain why you voted against reconciliation and providing all Alaskans a full PFD and then you voted for more government spending and cutting the PFD to all Alaskans? Would you care to explain why you continually and repeatedly vote against conservative values and for leftist and big government causes? Would you care to explain why you are trying to convince conservatives that their vote is meaningless?

      It’s very sad that a representative would deliberately misrepresent the facts repeatedly. Representative Eastman, you should be ashamed of yourself.

      • Lisa,

        KC,

        You must be sorely disappointed with Representatives Eastman and Kurka since they voted to fund state sponsored abortion when they also voted to lower the PFD amount and raise the amount state government spending.

    • What are the odds of this bill being passed? I am glad to see that someone has put together a bill to eliminate this terrible RCV scheme.

  2. Ranking a second candidate seems only worth doing if that person would be an acceptable alternative to your first choice. Why rank someone ( giving that person another check by their name ) that you do not want to be in office?
    Murkowski will get enough votes (ranked) from Dems who know that the Dem in the race cannot win. If, for example you want Kelly to win why give Lisa more if you find her unacceptable.
    Having said that, consider that I and many friends who discuss this procedure and who for the most part are educated and not stupid ( that’s debatable) really do not fully understand the process. How can it be so good if many feel the same way?

  3. “Now let’s say out of those 100 original voters only half decide to vote for a second choice. 50 people have now participated in the second round. This means to win in round 2, a candidate now only needs 26 votes to win.” That’s not entirely accurate, it depends upon the number of candidates, how many votes each candidate receives, and how many of those who ranked a second choice voted for the last place candidate. While the 26 votes to win out of an original 100 votes is certainly a possibility, the probability of it happening is almost zero. More likely would be that the second ranking puts a candidate with somewhere around 40% of the original vote over the top by moving their 40 votes to 45 when a marginal 5-10% candidate is removed from the count.

  4. Great series! What would happen to the ballot if someone also wrote in their first choice candidate using the write-in line, in addition to ranking that same candidate as number one? Lisa took great advantage of the write-in line. Can we?

  5. I caught an info commercial where they state that you can’t select the same candidate more than once. This leads to confusion, as I don’t want my ballot disqualified for any reason.

    • ‘https://www.elections.alaska.gov/Core/RCV.php

      Can I rank my favorite candidate as my first, second, and third choice, and so on?
      You should not assign all rankings to a single candidate in a race. If you rank your preferred candidate more than once, for example as your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th choice, then only your first ranking will count. Ranking a particular candidate more than once does not benefit the candidate. If a voter ranks a single candidate as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice, and so on, it is the same as leaving the second, third choice, and so on, blank. If you choose more than one candidate in a race as your 1st choice, your vote for that race will not be valid.

      Can I give multiple candidates the same ranking?
      No. You should not assign multiple candidates the same ranking. If you give multiple candidates the same ranking, it is considered an “over-vote.” If your ballot contains an over-vote in a race, it will be considered an “inactive ballot” because we are unable to determine which ONE candidate to allocate that ranked vote to. Unless voter intent is clear, we are forced to ignore that portion of the ballot that contains the over-voted race.

      Giving the ballot counters any reason to discard your ballot is not a good idea.

  6. As if Dominion Voting machines, mail in ballots, ballot harvesting and activist judges changing election rules at the last minute was not enough for Alaskans to lose faith in our elections, now we are forced to participate in the farce of Ranked Choice Voting. It is so “Banana Republic”!

  7. With respect, Ms. Bernadette, this explanation is about how RCV -should- work, not how it -will- work.
    .
    No one knows how the devil’s brew of RCV, ballot harvesting, Dominion vote tabulation gear, corrupted voter rolls, arbitrary ballot rejections, and dark money will tilt Alaska’s elections.
    .
    Voters have good reason to wonder why the one-man, one-vote idea on which America’s system of governmental checks and balances depended for the last 246 years suddenly had to be overturned.
    .
    In other words, voters are right to wonder whether free and fair elections are history because they would interfere with someone’s agenda for Alaska
    .
    … and whether Representative Eastman and co-sponsors are ready with a pre-filed, super well-publicized bill to repeal RCV in the next legislative session.
    .
    Sure and we’ll vote, who’d miss such a ceremony? Simon and Garfunkel’d be proud their “Mrs. Robinson” finally came of age:
    .
    “Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
    Going to the candidates debate
    Laugh about it, shout about it
    When you’ve got to choose
    Every way you look at it, you lose”
    .
    Hell, we might even write in Ms. Bernadette for something.

  8. Bernadette, thanks for this info, “This lowers the number of ballots in play in round two and therefore lowers the overall numbers of ballots that the ranked choice system needs to get 50% + 1.” That is very, very important to all of us to know.

  9. Just vote the same name each time. Now the second place person cannot get any votes from you and by chance your first or second choice could be the winner. By using the same name no other choices are counted from you so Lisa can’t win.

  10. Hypothetical question (as I am voting for Kelly Tshibaka as my number 1 choice with NO alternative choice for 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc.)
    Hypothetical cases:
    Case 1: If you skip a ranking your next ranking moves up.
    Case 2: But if you skip two or more rankings in a row, only the rankings before the skipped rankings will count.
    Question: Why in Case 2 doesn’t your next ranking move up similar to Case 1 (assuming that choice is still in contention??)

  11. I shall vote as I always have.

    One individual, one vote.

    The rest upon the card I shall eliminate by drawing a squiggly straight line from left to right, just as I do upon my checks, so as to prevent any change within mine own choice or number.

    • It probably doesn’t help because once you select your 1st choice, they will continue to be your choice regardless of whether someone makes any subsequent choices to your ballot. The problem with Rank Choice Voting is that it allows a radical Democrat (i.e. Lisa Murkowski) to run as a conservative Republican (which she is NOT) without going through a Republican primary (in which case she would lose to Kelly Tshibaka)…

    • Actually, if someone wanted to cancel your vote because they didn’t like your first choice, they would just have to fill in a second name to your first choice column and then your entire vote would be thrown out because it would no longer identify who your first choice actually was intended to be…

  12. Bernadette, thank you for this series. I have some questions about the impact of write-ins on the RCV system:

    1. Can we write in names to fill out the ranks?

    2. If so, and we rank a listed candidate first and then write in names like Betty Rubble, or George Jetson in the other three ranks, what happens if our first candidate is dropped after the first round – will the RCV system count our subsequent ranked write-in names?

    3. Will write-ins keep our ballots alive so they would be counted toward the 50%+1 winner tally?

    4. If we all wrote in random names to fill out our ranks, 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?

  13. This is just another way the political machine has control over election results. If you cannot win fair and square just change the rules, rearrange districts, throw in a couple extra votes, or simply change the voting system entirely. I lost faith in election integrity two years ago. If the candidate I select ends up with 49.9 percent of the vote and the next closest is 30 percent, and my candidate loses, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. All your going to get from me is one vote for one candidate. Why would I want to vote for a second, third, or fourth candidate? That’s like voting for chocolate pudding followed by ‘between candidates 2-4, on a scale of 1-10, which turd leaves the best taste in your mouth’!

  14. One can’t really “reset” one’s mind for each round because the truth is when we vote for #2 choice, we have no idea who is competing. We are being forced to vote blindly. This is a trash system.

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