Alaskan Elections Overhauled to Reduce Partisanship

Alaska is about to undertake an exercise to explore whether people can disarm legislators and congressmembers.

A new election system ratified by voters in 2020 and slated to be deployed this year aims to persuade candidates to appeal to a broader spectrum of voters.

A ranked-choice voting method would replace party primaries, sending the top four vote-getters to the election regardless of party membership.

Supporters see the concept to promote civility and collaboration among public leaders.

Former Republican state Senator Jason Grenn, who sponsored the proposal, called Alaska a “major test case” for similar attempts examined in other jurisdictions, including Nevada.

Empowering Citizens

Citizens will be “authorized in a different way” if the new system rewards politicians who are prepared to collaborate with others, regardless of party membership.

Green added, “We’re delighted that Alaska continues to lead the charge on something pretty monumental.” The modifications must withstand a petition before the Alaska Supreme Court on Tuesday before taking effect.

Critics say the policy is unconstitutional and weakens political parties. Last year, a state court judge affirmed it.

Aside from the governorship, the state’s midterm ballot includes elections for the US Senate and the state’s lone congressional seat.

Because of a new redistricting plan, all but one of the legislature’s 60 seats are up for grabs. The high court must approve the election modifications.

According to attorney Scott Kendall, working party lines are indeed part of Alaska’s “political DNA.” He referenced the late Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, who famously stated, “to heck with the party; just do what’s good for Alaska.” 

One of the state’s incumbent senators, Republican Lisa Murkowski, is recognized for working with Democrats on some matters and occasionally defying her party.

Kendall envisions new parliamentary alliances and coalitions emerging under the system and becoming more common.

A solidly Republican or Democrat district is unlikely to change, but the legislators chose to represent it might, he added. “I believe it will penalize obstructionists for the sake of obstruction,” he remarked.

Between 2007 and 2012, the Republican hold on power was broken by a 10-10 split in the state Senate, along with a new oil tax structure implemented by then-Gov. Sarah Palin, and a windfall in oil money.

During that period, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by six to one.

Internal Squabbles

Like other nations, the House has failed to form a majority, following the previous two elections. It took a month to pick a speaker in 2019 and nearly as long as last year.

Republicans who backed Democrats and Independents in recent years have encountered internal opposition. In some cases, they’ve even lost primaries.

Green, a former legislator, said party primaries were used as a “tool” to punish members who work together or don’t vote in cahoots with their party program. It would encourage collaboration, he argued.

After losing the Republican primary in 2020, Cathy Giessel hopes to seek the Senate again this year.

She feels her and another Republican senator’s cooperation across party lines was “a key, probably the main reason we lost re-election.”