Would you vote for a king? Alaska pits fin against claw to practice ranked-choice voting

a crab
Red king crab. (NOAA)

Last we checked, king crab was narrowly ahead of three other Alaska seafoods in the Division of Elections’ mock primary.

King crab, of course, will never hold elected office. But, for now at least, it’s got a lead for the title of “Best Seafood in Alaska” in an online election simulation app. The division is using it as a chance to begin educating Alaskans about how they’ll vote in 2022.

That statewide election will be the first shaped by Ballot Measure 2, which voters approved last year.

While most of the attention on the measure has been on ranked-choice voting, that doesn’t kick in until the November ballot. 

So that’s the first lesson of Alaska’s mock seafood election: In the August primary, voters will find candidates of all parties on one ballot. They can choose a single candidate per race, said Gail Fenumiai, director of the division.

“In the primary, you’re still going to get one ballot, there will no longer be multiple ballots to pick from, and you will still be selecting one choice for each race that appears on your ballot,” she said.

The division’s public relations manager discovered RankedVote, an interactive online app that allows anyone to set up a mock election.

So the division put 18 seafood species on a pretend ballot. The candidates range from black cod to geoduck. Unlike in a real election, you can see the interim results while the polls are still open.

RELATED: As Alaska prepares for first ranked-choice election, experts say now is the time to educate and test

Fenumiai said the real fun begins with the next stage.

“At the close of polls at 5 p.m. on June 15, we will then tally the top four, and then we will create a general election, ranked-choice voting election,” she said.

Like the real election, the top four candidates will advance to the general.

The elections division will put out word when the seafood general election ballot is ready, Fenumiai said. Then, the public can go online and rank the candidates, one through four. 

“And voters, people, will be able to see how that works, what the ballot is going to look like, somewhat, just to familiarize themselves with what to expect when they go to the polls,” Fenumiai said. “And then, at the end of that, they’ll be able to see how the various rounds of tabulation work.”

RELATED: Murkowski gains immunity from Trump revenge with Alaska’s new voting system

If no fish or shellfish wins a majority in Round 1, the last place finisher is eliminated and its supporters’ second-choice selections are allocated to the remaining three candidates. That redistribution continues until one candidate gets a majority of votes cast.

Another thing to note: Although this seafood mock election is online, Alaskans will cast their real ballots next year in the normal ways — in person, or absentee by mail or fax.

As an elections official, Fenumiai avoids partisan activities, but she does confess to a preference among seafood: “I love halibut.”

This is not to be construed as a candidate endorsement, she added.

To vote in this year’s mock seafood election, click here.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

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