Editor’s note: This is the sixth 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: Will my fourth-place vote ever count?
Bernadette Wilson: This is both the easiest question and the most observant. No, your fourth place vote will never count.
Even with ranked choice voting, we will still ultimately get down to two remaining candidates. If you take the number of candidates in the race minus one, that will give you the number of your choices that could ultimately count.
For example, in the upcoming special general election for Congress on Aug. 16, there are three candidates in the race. In this particular race, your third choice will not count but your first two choices could potentially count.
As we have discussed before, your second choice would only count if your first choice candidate had been eliminated. If you vote for Candidate C for your first choice, but hardly anyone else does, that choice is eliminated and Candidate A and B are left in contention.
If we have already eliminated one candidate that means that we are already at two candidates. By the time we get to two remaining candidates someone will indeed have at least 50% plus one of the vote. So no matter who your third choice is, it will not count. One candidate has already been disqualified from the race, and your ballot will now reside with your second choice.
There will always be two final candidates in the final tally. The 50+1 threshold is always among the remaining ballots in that final count between two choices.