Very few would have predicted confidently that Democrat Mary Peltola would win the special election to fill Don Young’s congressional seat for the remainder of his term. But it was entirely predictable that many of those who disagree with the result would blame it on ranked choice voting. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas called ranked choice voting “a scam to rig elections.” Sarah Palin, observing that Peltola only got 40% of the vote on the first round of voting, said the election “disenfranchised” 60% of the voters. It apparently didn’t occur to Palin that, under her theory, if she had won after receiving only 31% of the vote in the first round, nearly 70 percent of voters would have been “disenfranchised.”
There is, in fact, no evidence that the result would have been any different under the old system, before the adoption of ranked choice voting. To the contrary, it seems reasonable to assume that Palin would have defeated Begich in the primary. And we know from the election that just took place that, in a head to head contest between Peltola and Palin, Peltola wins with 51.5 % of the vote. Nonetheless, many will use this election to criticize, and perhaps attempt to repeal, ranked choice voting. Sadly, we seem to live in a time when many voters and politicians believe the only fair election is an election in which their preferred candidate wins.