Anchorage Daily News
Instant runoff: Alaska voters to decide change
in electoral system
June 5, 2002
An initiative on the August primary ballot could
streamline elections in Alaska, except for the offices of governor
and lieutenant governor. It deserves study.
"instant runoff" or preferential voting, the system would have
voters pick up to five candidates in preferential order. If one
received a majority of first-place votes, he or she would win
outright. If no candidate received a majority of firsts, then the
last-place candidate would be eliminated, and that candidate's
second choice picks would be counted for the remaining candidates
who received them. Vote-counting would repeat the process until one
candidate received a majority.
"It's like having a series of runoff
elections," said initiative backer Ken Jacobus. "You've already
voted for the second time." He said the goal is majority rule and
savings on runoff elections, which often have poor turnouts and cost
the taxpayers money.
Mr. Jacobus said preferential voting would
increase turnout and allow supporters of minor candidates to vote
their consciences and still potentially make a difference through
the ranking of other candidates. He said campaigns might even become
more civil, because candidates "have to court second-place votes as
well as first-place votes."
San Francisco voters adopted instant
runoff voting for city elections in March, and the system is used
elsewhere -- in races for Lord Mayor of London and the Australian
House of Representatives, for instance. If Alaska adopts instant
runoffs, it would be the first state to do so.
The initiative would
not affect elections for governor and lieutenant governor, because
the Alaska Constitution states the winners of those elections are
the candidates with the most votes; a majority isn't required.
Change here would require a constitutional amendment.
runoff voting would apply to the rest of state offices and would
authorize the instant runoff option for local governments.
good government. Whether it's Republican or Democrat, it's good
government," said Mr. Jacobus, a Republican Party activist.
been little debate about the initiative so far. That should change
between now and the Aug. 27 primary. The instant runoff is an idea
worth a careful look by Alaskans. We shouldn't fear to improve our
electoral system -- but we should be sure improvement is what we're
doing with any change.