Ask Bernadette: What if I vote for the same person for my first, second, third choice on the ballot?


Editor’s note: This is the third 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, you can find previous editions of this series and get more of your questions answered by adding questions in the comment section.

Our answers are given by election expert Bernadette Wilson, of Americans for Prosperity Alaska.

Question: What if I vote for the same person for my first, second, third choice on the ranked choice special general election ballot? Will my ballot be spoiled?

Bernadette Wilson: Voting for the same person as your first, second, third, and potentially fourth choice is essentially the same as only voting for one candidate, one time. It does not help your candidate any more than if you voted for them once. It also doesn’t hurt your candidate’s chance.

During the ballot counting process, what would force the counting of your second choice, would be the fact that your first choice had the least amount of votes and had already been cut from the ballot counting process.

Therefore, if we go to your second choice and it’s the same as your first choice, who has already been cut, then there is no place for your second choice to go, so the ballot would then be eliminated, because that candidate is no longer recognized as a viable candidate due to lack of votes.

The same methodology holds true for both your third and fourth choice. The only reason your third choice would be considered or counted would be because your first choice candidate has already been eliminated due to lack of votes. If counting gets to your third or fourth choice, and it’s the same as your first choice, who has already been eliminated, then again there’s no place for the vote to go and the ballot would not be valid.

If someone’s concern is that they do not feel comfortable leaving any of their ballot blank, then they could vote for the same person as all of their choices simply to give them peace of mind that no one else was filling in ovals before the vote is tabulated.


  1. Thank you for accurately describing what happens when you vote (as voters normally do in almost every other state) for the one candidate you want to win.

    There is a lot of money behind the push to get you to vote for the candidate you like, and then also three other candidates that you may not like. They’ve even gone so far as to program the machines to give voters a warning if they vote for only the candidate they want to win in all four rankings. It’s perfectly acceptable to mark your ballot that way, but they want you to vote for more than one candidate. Why?

    Let’s apply this to the Lisa Murkowski race. Let’s say Kelly wins in Round 1 with 45% of the vote, which isn’t enough to break 50%, and then Lisa wins in a later round (which some are loudly predicting will happen). If voters who choose Kelly over Lisa do not vote for Lisa in any subsequent rounds of voting, then we will be told that Lisa “won”, but with less than 50% of ballots being counted. Note: This was the same reason Kelly “lost” in the first round, but because it happens on a later round of voting we are told it is ok under the new system.

    But if Kelly’s voters rank Lisa 2nd, 3rd or 4th, then when Lisa is eventually marked “winner”, she can boast of winning the votes of a majority of the voters. In this way, the new system masks the fact that Lisa received such little support. In fact, if the above happened, the only way she could be declared the winner at all was to ignore the results of the first election and then hold additional elections under different scenarios with fewer and fewer candidates participating each time until you hit the magic number where Lisa “wins”.

    In other words, if we pretend there is no Democrat candidate running and there is no AIP candidate running, and there is no Libertarian candidate running, and only 2 Republicans running, and then hold our election, and enough voters rank Lisa in last place, Lisa wins. That’s ranked-choice voting for you.

    Can Lisa’s supporters get your buy-in on a new system of voting in which your vote doesn’t count until it’s a vote for a candidate you dislike, detest, or even despise? There’s a lot of money being spent right now to accomplish exactly that goal.

    Remember, Ranked-Choice Voting isn’t about all the other candidates on the ballot. It’s about Lisa Murkowski and cooking up a new way for her to win despite her disapproval numbers.

    But, setting aside that particular race, Ranked-Choice Voting is also about coaxing value voters into voting against their values by threatening them with a vote that “doesn’t count” unless they vote against their values. If you are staunchly against voting for pro-choice candidates like Lisa Murkowski and would never dream of voting for a pro-choice candidate under the traditional system, Ranked-Choice Voting makes it easier for your vote to now be counted for Lisa…and that’s the whole point.

    And that isn’t a new project. DC has been working on that project in various forms since the days of George Washington (when the capital was still in Philadelphia). Buyer beware.

    • So what your saying is it doesn’t matter how you vote, Lisa is rigged to win this election with the new way of voting? How are they allowed to do this blatantly in the open? There’s no use filling out a ballot if the decision is already made ahead of time. What a waste of time. Me and mine won’t be voting at all until they fix this broken new system.

      • Unfortunately, the voters of Alaska voted in this horrible system, if only by a very small margin. Which points out the absolute need for you to vote. The leftist are counting on disillusioning enough rational voters into giving up on the system and not even voting. Please, please don’t be one of the disaffected; otherwise the cheaters will win.

    • I agree with
      “But if Kelly’s voters rank Lisa 2nd, 3rd or 4th, then when Lisa is eventually marked “winner”, she can boast of winning the votes of a majority of the voters.”

      That narrative will be assumed when the report states, “So and So has won with 54% of the votes.” It will not be 54% of the round one votes, and there will be an incentive to imply that it was, by the winner. Here’s to honest politicians!

      Let’s say that 10,000 people vote.
      If Lisa has 45% of the votes (4,500) and Kelly has 50% of the votes (5,000), then round two will include all of Kelly’s round one votes plus anyone who voted for the candidate who came in last place will have their vote discarded. If 2 people voted for that candidate and none of them listed a second choice then Kelly wins because she now has more than 50% of the votes counted in round two, since there are now less votes to count. 5000 out of 9,998 votes is more than 50%.

      If those two voters had chosen Lisa as their second choice then we’d have to go to round three and drop the next lowest candidate. Each round would preserve the votes cast for Lisa and Kelly when they occur.

      Bernadette, am I understanding correctly? The question of spoiled ballots is important because if the voter does not follow instructions and repeats the same candidate for second choice then one might consider that ballot to be spoiled and just not count it at all! That interpretation may vary depending on the ethics and political persuasion of the vote counter, and may need to a court to rule on it if there isn’t an explicit rule stated.

    • Respectfully David, I believe you are mistaken as to how the rank choice voting process works. If you vote Kelly as your #1 choice and she doesn’t get eliminated, your vote for Kelly stays with Kelly. The Lisa scenario is when the demrats vote Lisa for their second choice and their first choice gets eliminated – then the second choice votes move to first on those ballots and Lisa picks up another 10-20% of the vote beating Kelly. Bernadette’s analysis is accurate.
      Repeal RCV ASAP. Persuade your non-Republican acquaintances to vote Kelly in their number two to keep Lisa out.

    • 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.

  2. This confusing explanation coming from the Representative who said he was for a full PFD and then VOTED Against it . He voted to Short every Alaskan $2000. He is in my district and I will be voting for Stu Graham who promises a full PFD and will not lie and decieve the people who trusted and voted him.

  3. Here’s what the statute says

    AS 15.15.350
    (e) When counting general election ballots,
    (1) a ballot containing an overvote shall be considered an inactive ballot once the overvote is encountered at the highest ranking for a continuing candidate;

    (f) The election board may not count an inactive ballot for any candidate.

    (g) In this section,

    (2) “inactive ballot” means a ballot that is no longer tabulated, either in whole or in part, by the division because it does not rank any continuing candidate, contains an overvote at the highest continuing ranking, or contains two or more sequential skipped rankings before its highest continuing ranking;

    (3) “overvote” means an instance where a voter has assigned the same ranking to more than one candidate

    You can rank a candidate as many times as you want, your ballot will be considered an overvote and it will be discarded by law.

    • Assigning the same ranking to more than one candidate is not the same as assigning the same candidate to more than one ranking. Thanks for the info on the statute.

  4. The RCV system does favor Murkowski. Even if Tshibaka finishes on top in the first round, Murkowski will obviously be the second choice of the Left. This is in part due to the weakness of the Democrat (left of center) field. This is also due to the unconstitutional usurpation of a political party to elect its own candidates. Then we must define what is freedom of association and equitable representation.

  5. What happened to one man, one vote?
    If my favored candidate doesn’t make it beyond the first stage…
    I am already past caring.
    I do not have a second choice, there ain’t one.
    And I lose fair and square.
    I can deal with that.

  6. How do we get shed of this convoluted lawyered up mess of a process. One person, one vote.

  7. Ranked Choice Voting is the Democrats grand plan to manipulate the vote. It is too complicated! Too many ways for a voter to inadvertently mess up and then have his/her ballot adjudicated by a third party. The dems for years have said that showing ID at the polls results in suppressing the minority vote. Ranked Choice Voting is infinitely more complex for minorities than one person, one vote! This needs to go to SCOTUS ASAP!

  8. There is a way to prevent the eventual winner from winning with less than 50% of the original vote. If EVERYONE ranks their preferred candidate(s) and then WRITES IN names to fill out the remaining ranks on their ballot, those ballots cannot be discarded in subsequent rounds of counting, and must be used to calculate whether the top candidate meets the 50% target.

    My question, Bernadette, is what happens if everyone does write in names to fill out their rankings and at the end, neither of the final two candidates reaches 50%?

    • I was just thinking the same thing. I will NOT support a Rino like Murkowski in anyway. I am going to vote for Kelly and write my name in on the other 3 spots

  9. There are two simple rules for RCV in regard to the US Senate election:

    1. DON’T vote for a democrat.

    2. Lisa is a democrat.

  10. Rank choice is a system designed by cheaters to facilitate cheating.

    Combined with mass mailings of ballots and the computers required to run rank choice, there will not be another honest election in Alaska.

    There is no other way to describe what’s happening.

  11. The most recent data I could find on state voter registration is from 9/3/20. Republicans and Independents will need to come out in full force to vote and not rank Murkowski. For those saying they refuse to vote because the system is rigged, please reconsider.
    Republicans 142,266
    Democrats 78,664
    Independents 17,861

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