In the two weeks since Alaska’s special election for their only seat in the House of Representatives, many commentators have quite simply gotten the story wrong.
Many articles have praised the Democratic candidate, Mary Peltola, for miraculously flipping the seat that was held for 49 years by Republican Don Young. Others predict that the Alaskan race spells good fortune for Democrats across the country in the midterm elections. Even conservative voices who anticipate a massive red wave in November contend that the results are merely a repudiation of Alaska’s former governor, Sarah Palin (R).
Most of these perspectives, however, have either misunderstood or simply ignored the real culprit of the upset in Alaska: ranked-choice voting (RCV).
After narrowly passing by only 50.55 percent of the vote on a ballot initiative in 2020, Alaskans adopted RCV for their state-wide general elections. While traditional elections in America are organized by a one-man, one vote plurality system, voters in RCV elections rank their preferences from a multitude of candidates. If no candidate wins a clear 50-percent-plus-one majority after the first round of counting, the lowest-scoring candidate will be eliminated. Of those who voted for the eliminated candidate, their second choices will be counted in