In 2021, New York City used ranked-choice voting for the first time in a mayoral primary, and it worked as intended, elevating the Democrat with the broadest support among the party enrollees who turned out. Now Alaskans have given a fresh vote of confidence to this better way of counting ballots, using RCV in a general election to elect consensus candidates and reject the kinds of extremists who typically get elevated in low-turnout party primaries.
New York should take the lesson and build on it by using ranked-choice voting more intelligently.
There were two pieces of good news from way up north: Democrat Mary Peltola beat Republican Sarah Palin to win the state’s at-large seat to the House, repeating the outcome from a special election in August; and in the Senate, Republican Lisa Murkowski, who had voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, won reelection against Trump-backed challenger Kelly Tshibaka.
Registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats nearly 2-to-1 in Alaska, but unaffiliated voters far outnumber both. That fact alone nicely explains why it is wrong for party primaries, in which the most ideological voters from the dominant parties choose who they want to represent them, to dictate who gets to face off in a general election.
Instead, Alaska now has an open primary in which all candidates, regardless of party, appear on the ballot, and the top four vote-getters then head to the general election, where voters rank them. If no one gets more than 50% of the first-choice votes, second- and third-choice votes from candidates at the bottom are redistributed until someone gets majority support.
While New York City’s ranked-choice system is an improvement over the old way we used to choose councilmembers, comptrollers, public advocates and mayors, the profound flaw is that low-turnout, closed Democratic primaries that exclude 919,000 unaffiliated voters and 470,000 registered Republicans wind up being the whole ballgame.