Anchorage Daily News
Long, Hard Look Needed On . . .
April 24, 2002
Alaska voters will face a
question on the Aug. 27 primary ballot that deserves a lot more
discussion than it has received so far: whether to switch to instant
The system would apply to balloting for federal and
state office -- except governor and lieutenant governor. If
approved, voters in future elections would choose up to five
candidates in each race and indicate the order in which they
preferred them (first, second, third, etc.)
To win an election
right off the bat, the candidate would have to get more than half
the votes cast. But when a candidate fails to get half on the first
count, the challenger in last place would be eliminated and all
second choices on his or her ballots would then be counted and added
to the remaining candidates' totals.
That recounting process would
continue until one candidate had enough votes to take the election.
The initiative does not apply to the race for governor because the
Alaska Constitution specifies that the winner in that race is the
one who garners the most votes, not necessarily a majority. Since
the governor and lieutenant governor run as a team, both positions
are excluded from the proposed process.
The Alaska initiative also
would allow instant runoff voting as a local option, so it could be
adopted for Assembly and other city elections.
Instant runoff is
relatively untried, though a few cities and states are taking
tentative steps in that direction. It has been adopted by San
Francisco and most communities in Vermont. And the Republican Party
in Utah is using the system at its May 11 convention.
be the first state to adopt it. If successful, the system could save
money on separate runoff elections. But its most fervent backers are
those who want to alter the impact of third-party candidates by
reducing their role as spoilers.
Ken Jacobus, a prominent
Republican, is one of the initiative's backers. His cites occasions
when Democrats have won Alaska elections by default because the
conservative vote was split. This year, for instance, some GOP
voters may opt for the Republican Moderate Party and the Alaskan
Independence Party, which also will be on the ballot.
Jim Sykes of
the Alaska Green Party also likes the proposed system. So do Ralph
Nader and many other third-party leaders in the country. They want
voters to be able to choose long-shot candidates without feeling
their votes are wasted.
To our thinking such a change deserves a
long, hard look beginning well before primary day. Instant runoff
voting could eliminate some old problems -- but in the process could
create new and perhaps worse ones.