Fans of Alaska’s ranked choice voting speak out against bill to repeal it

testimony against House Bill 4
Rob Welton of Douglas testifies against House Bill 4, which would repeal ranked choice voting in Alaska on May 2, 2023. (Gavel Alaska screenshot)

A bill that would repeal ranked choice voting in Alaska drew a lot of public opposition at a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee Tuesday, but its passage in the final days of the legislative session seems unlikely.

The sponsor of the repeal bill, Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, said getting rid of ranked choice voting was the No. 1 issue her constituents wanted to discuss last year.

“For many years, voters have highlighted the lack of trust in our election process,” she said at the start of the hearing. “Ranked choice voting has exacerbated that, because it must be counted by the use of a computer, using an algorithm instead of people being able to simply count and tally a vote.”

Alaska voters adopted the new voting style by ballot measure in 2020. Candidates no longer compete in a partisan primary. Instead, all candidates appear on the same primary ballot and the top four advance to the general, where voters have an opportunity to vote for their favorite and rank the others, according to their preference.

Vance presented the results of a Dittman poll showing 51% of Alaskans want to repeal ranked choice. (An earlier poll, by Alaska Survey Research, also found a majority of Alaskans favor repeal.)

But among nearly 50 members of the public who spoke at the hearing, the testimony ran 3-to-1 in support of ranked choice voting. 

“I think RCV is working,” said Rob Welton of Douglas. “You look at where (Mary) Peltola and (Lisa) Murkowski were recently elected – moderates who can reach across the aisle and they’re already decreasing the national temperature at the Congress level, which is good.”

Welton said he could easily sum up his argument in favor of ranked choice: “Two words: Cathy Giessel. She’s doing a great job in the Senate.”

Giessel is a Republican senator from Anchorage. In 2020, she lost her Republican primary. Two years later, with the partisan primary gone, she easily won the seat back. She’s a fan of ranked choice voting and she’s now the Senate majority leader. That’s one reason the repeal bill stands a slim chance of becoming law.

Opponents of the new system often cite voter confusion, as did Jan Morrison, who testified from Soldotna.

“I’m having people tell me that they will never vote again if it’s quote-unquote, the funny voting,” Morrison said.

House State Affairs Chairman Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage, has scheduled another public hearing on the bill next week.

Meanwhile, leading opponents of ranked choice voting are putting their energy into a voter initiative. Art Mathias, a sponsor of the campaign, said they have more than half of the signatures they need to get on the ballot.

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

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