Republicans blamed the state’s new ranked choice voting system for the former governor’s loss
Democrat Mary Peltola has won an election to fill Alaska’s lone seat in the US House of Representatives, defeating former Governor Sarah Palin. Republicans argued that Palin’s loss in such a deep red state was attributable to a new kind of voting system that favors more moderate candidates.
Peltola was declared the winner on Wednesday night by the Alaska Division of Elections, narrowly defeating Palin by 51% to 49%. Running against a candidate as nationally known as Palin in a state that voted for Donald Trump by 10 points in 2020, Peltola’s victory came as a surprise to some poll-watchers.
Peltola will be the first Democrat to hold Alaska’s House seat since 1973, with Republican Rep. Don Young holding the position from then until his death in March. She will also be the first Native Alaskan elected to Congress.
Palin dominated a primary election in June, winning 27% of the vote to Peltola’s 10%. However, the special election was the state’s first to utilize a ranked-choice system, where voters pick multiple candidates in order of preference, with the lowest scoring candidates eliminated in successive rounds of counting and their votes being redistributed according to the second, third, and lower preferences indicated on their first-choice ballots.
Nick Begich, a moderate Republican, also contested the election and came in third place. However, Begich’s voters did not give enough second preference votes to Palin to propel the firebrand conservative across the finish line. In other words, moderate Republicans viewed a Democrat as a better alternative to Palin.
“The biggest lesson as we move into the 2022 general election is that ranked choice voting showed that a vote for Sarah Palin is a vote for Mary Peltola,” Begich said in a statement. “Palin simply doesn’t have enough support from Alaskans to win an election.”
However, others considered it unfair that a Democrat could emerge victorious in an election that saw the three Republican candidates (including Tara Sweeney, who scored just under 4%) take home a combined 61% of first-preference votes. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton called the ranked choice system “a scam to rig elections.”
“The people of Alaska do not want the destructive democrat agenda to rule our land and our lives, but that’s what resulted from someone’s experiment with this new crazy, convoluted, confusing ranked-choice voting system,” Palin said in a statement, calling the ranked choice system a “mistake.”
With the election deciding who will represent Alaska for the remainder of Young’s term, voters in the US’ largest congressional district by area will go to the polls again in November.
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