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Analysis from Alaska’s RCV elections Nov. 2022

Deb Otis for Fair Vote

The Alaska Board of Elections has released full data from their November 2022 elections in the form of a “cast vote record,” or a digital record of how each voter used the rankings on their ballots. Below are FairVote’s key findings from the cast vote record.


This was Alaska’s second RCV election. Find our analysis from the August 2022 special election here.


VOTERS USE RANKINGS, ESPECIALLY IN COMPETITIVE RACES

In the three statewide races, roughly two-thirds of voters used multiple rankings. 67% of voters ranked more than one candidate for Governor, 65% for U.S. Senator, and 67% for U.S. House.


Voters were more likely to rank backup choices if their first choice was not a front-runner. Across the three statewide races, 78% of voters whose first choice was one of the two last-place candidates used multiple rankings, higher than the overall average. The starkest example is the race for U.S. House where over 80% of voters for the eliminated candidates (Bye and Begich) ranked one or more backup choices, compared to less than 70% of voters for the finalists (Peltola and Palin). This aligns with previous research showing that voters rank backup choices when they think it matters. Voters who support a front-runner may believe their candidate is likely to earn a spot in the final round, eliminating the need to indicate a second choice.


Similarly, in more crowded races, voters ranked more. Across Alaska’s four-candidate races, voters used an average of 2.1 rankings, compared to 1.7 rankings in three-candidate races.


This data shows that when voters have more choices on the ballot, they take advantage of the freedom to express more preferences, indicating an enthusiasm for the ranked ballot.


WINNERS OF STATEWIDE RACES EARNED STRONG FIRST-CHOICE SUPPORT, AND WERE POPULAR AS SECOND AND THIRD CHOICES


For Alaska’s three statewide offices, incumbent candidates all earned reelection. We analyzed how often each of these winners was ranked first, how often they were ranked second, and so on. The trends vary based on each politician’s individual campaign style and base of support.


Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) earned over 50% of first-choice preferences so he won reelection without the need for ranked choice voting rounds. Dunleavy earned fewer second-choice preferences than his opponents, but still was ranked first, second, or third on 62% of ballots. This reflects a strong mandate to lead.


Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) earned 43% of first-choice preferences, giving her a very narrow lead in the first round. However, she expanded that lead over fellow Republican Kelly Tshibaka because she was much more popular as a second choice. Murkowski was ranked first, second, or third on 62% of ballots.



Representative Mary Peltola (D) earned 49% of first-choice preferences; she led her nearest challenger, Sarah Palin, by 23 points among first-choices, a large enough lead that Palin couldn’t overtake Peltola even after earning more second-choice rankings. Third-place finisher Nick Begich earned many voters’ second and third-choices, but even if he had made it to the final round, Peltola would have defeated him 55%-45%.



18% OF VOTERS CROSSED PARTY LINES IN THEIR TOP TWO CHOICES

There were 18 contests with multiple candidates from the same party: 16 with multiple Republicans and two with multiple Democrats. Across all of these races, more than four out of five voters (82%) stayed within party lines for their first and second choices, while 18% crossed party lines for their second choice.





The most party cohesion occurred in State House District 32, where 94% of voters for Republicans Timothy Givens and Will Stapp ranked the other Republican as their next choice.


The lowest rate of party cohesion was in State Senate District R, where 64% of voters for Republicans Elijah Verhagen and Click Bishop ranked the other Republican second. The remaining voters crossed party lines to rank Bert Williams of the Alaskan Independence Party.


ANALYSIS OF THREE COME-FROM-BEHIND VICTORIES

There were three come-from-behind victories: State House districts 11, 15, and 18. In all three cases, the winner is from the same party as the candidate eliminated in the first round. Our analysis confirms the existence of a strong partisan coalition of voters in those districts.

RCV gave voters more choices than simply “red or blue,” letting voters choose their true favorite candidate while still ultimately rewarding the majority party. For example, Tom McKay, the winner in House District 15, said this about the other Republican in his race, David Eibeck: “His message to his voters was to rank me second. Publicly I need to thank David for doing that. Because he didn’t have to do that. And that obviously enabled me to catch up.”



See the above chart of party-line votes for how much Republicans benefitted from voters’ backup choices in the come-from-behind wins in Districts 11 and 15, and how much Democrats benefitted in District 18.

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