Alaska Supreme Court upholds ranked choice voting, explains why

According to the Anchorage Daily News, the Alaska Supreme Court has just put forth its opinion explaining why it is that it previously decided to uphold ranked-choice voting and open primaries as constitutional. 

Alaska is the second state to turn to ranked-choice voting for its elections. It is the first state, however, to combine ranked-choice voting with an open primary system.

Ranked-choice voting is the method in which voters are asked to rank candidates in order of preference. If one candidate receives more than 50% of first-choice votes, then that candidate wins. If not, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and those ballots get distributed to the voters’ second choice.

The process is repeated until one candidate ends up with the majority of votes.

The lawsuit

Ranked-choice voting was narrowly approved by voters on the 2020 ballots. And, the state has been working double-time to get it implemented for the midterm elections.

Ranked-choice voting, however, has received a lot of criticism, turning into somewhat of a partisan issue with, in general, Democrats in favor of it and Republicans opposed to it. Republicans believe that some politicians, such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), can use unfairly this system in order to remain in power by getting Democrats to choose Murkowski as their second or third preference.

Ranked-choice voting has been legally challenged.

Several arguments have been raised against ranked-choice voting, including that it violates a provision of the Alaska constitution that states that “the candidate receiving the greatest number of votes shall be governor,” and that it unduly burdens the right of political parties to choose their own candidates.

Alaska’s Supreme Court explains

Alaska’s Supreme Court upheld ranked-choice voting back in January. And, just last week, in a 47-page opinion, it explained why it rejected the arguments put forth by the challengers.

The five justices, for example, rejected the claim that ranked-choice voting violates that part of the state constitution that says that “the candidate receiving the greatest number of votes shall be governor.” The justices argued that the ranked-choice voting process would still result in the candidate winning who receives the greatest number of votes.

The justice also rejected the idea that ranked-choice voting unduly burdens political parties’ right to choose their candidates, arguing, that all ranked-choice voting does is narrow the field of candidates, regardless of party.

The bottom line is that Alaska is moving forward with this controversial ranked-choice voting method with the approval of its highest court. The question now is whether concerns about ranked-choice voting will become reality, and we’ll find out soon enough.

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