Brennan: Voting system seems a goat rope

By Tom Brennan |

Ranked choice voting looks to be something of a goat rope.

Since Alaskans have now chosen the RCV system as their preferred way to vote, we shall see whether it is, in fact, a real problem. We will presumably see how it goes when we have our first ranked-choice ballot election two years from now.

The difficulty, it seems from here, is that you have to choose from four candidates and list them in your order of preference. The four finalists on the ballot would be chosen in the primary. 

It’s hard enough to learn enough about one person to consider giving them your precious vote. Knowing enough about four candidates to rank them in a preferred order seems way more than can be expected from the average voter, me included.

Ranked choice voting is growing in popularity around the country and has already been adopted by the state of Maine and many communities including New York City, which took up the system a year ago.

There are some obvious advantages to RCV. They say it reduces polarized election campaigns, though those haven’t been a big problem here at least in recent years. They also say it increases the number of women and minorities running for office successfully and decreases the amount of negative campaigning, both of which seem like a good idea.

When you vote an RCV ballot in Alaska you will have four choices for each office. On your ballot you will give your first choice for each office, then your second, your third and — the one you have the least enthusiasm for — your fourth.

When the votes are tabulated, the candidate with the poorest showing is eliminated and the votes are recounted, eliminating one candidate with each round until a final winner is chosen.

For each office the winning candidate will be the one with the greatest popularity, even if many of the voters listed him or her as their second, third or even fourth choice. But the more people list the candidate as their first choice, the likelier he or she will be to win the office. 

And simply listing the individual as a second- or third-place choice can boost the person into office if enough people do it and a winning combination of high-enough votes is garnered. Presumably if the candidate was most people’s fourth choice, success would be pretty difficult to come by.

But if a majority of people list the candidate as their first choice, he or she is the winner. No need to start ranking the various lower levels of enthusiasm indicated on the ballot.

One of the advantages of the system is that it gives many novice candidates a better chance of winning against the professional politician types. That is why women and minorities do so much better under RCV.

It also allows voters to allocate a portion of their vote to each of their favorite candidates. You don’t have to leave your second or third choices off your ballot, just list them in your preferred order.

The system might encourage many people to run for office since they won’t have to consider whether their candidacies would compete with others they like. 

There would be room on the ballot for pretty much everybody willing to do it.

2 Responses to Brennan: Voting system seems a goat rope

  1. M. J. D. November 23, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    W. G. above echos my sediment exactly.
    If eliminating the need for a run off is to save money wouldn’t have ing the muni elections in November when the volunteers and the booths are set up also be a way of saving money.
    So much self serving double speak and all this crammed down the throats of the people.
    Anchorage and Alaska for that matter lacking a source for honest journalistic news till now. i. e. abc, cbs, public television and that fish wrapper tabloid

  2. Will Gay November 22, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    Ranked choice voting is liberal snake oil. The authors and campaign funding should be your clue . Just like the Muni change from a majority to a plurality to win. “Runoff elections are too expensive don’t you know.?”. No sooner do that get you to swallow that than they convince you that a spring election “allows more focus on the issues”
    But I thought you said having more than one election was too expensive?? And with that the dupe was complete. You will forever have loons like you have now running the Assembly and mayors from San Francisco ( doing whatever they do ?).
    The Muni is a lost cause. Now the state is too with ranked choice voting. What a convoluted un democratic mess. Rigged for liberals.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For information, sizing, and rates of banner advertising space we have available, please e-mail Mark Hopkin at, or call him at (907) 276-4262.