What to Expect from the Instant Runoff Portion of Alaska’s Premier Ladder Election ” Alaska

Voters will cast their ballots at the Anchorage Division of Elections Office on Election Day, November 8, 2022. The polling station served Districts 1 through 40 as the preferred voting site. (Elyssa Loughlin/Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska Division of Elections is busy counting votes before Election Day because mail-in and mail-in ballots arrive early. By Wednesday, November 23, they will have finished counting the first choice votes on all the ballots. In previous elections, this is when the races were called and everything was sent off for certification.

This year, There is an additional step – called tabulation or sort. That’s because under Alaska’s new voting system, voters will place up to four candidates on the ballot for each race, rather than picking just one. If a candidate has more than 50% of the votes after counting the first ballot, he wins without a second ballot. This part has not changed. Races where no candidate wins a majority of votes are tabulated.

During the lineup, the fourth-place finisher for each race is eliminated and the second-choice candidates from those ballots are added to the first-choice vote count results. This happens in rounds until there are only two candidates left and the one with the most votes wins.

We’ve done this before. In August, the Division of Elections did the Tabulation live on Facebook for special election to replace Rep. Don Young. It was with a cell phone camera held up to a computer screen – a few clicks of the mouse and it was over.

This time it will be more of a production. The process will live on KTOO 360TV and streaming to multiple sites. Division of Elections staff go through the ballots race by race, redistributing second-election votes until each has an unofficial winner. Some races may also require reassignment of third choice votes.

The US Senate and House of Representatives races will be first, then the governor (if necessary – he is on course to get more than 50% of the vote after counting the first elections) and then the national general elections, which still have no winner, which is the case for about a quarter.

A photo of a sample ballot for the 2022 Alaska special election
An example of a ranked election for the Division of Elections. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Ranking choice voting is also known as instant runoff voting. Some states have a second round of voting when there is no majority vote winner in a two-candidate race. For example, in Georgia voters will go to the polls again this year in December to determine, among other things, the outcome of the Senate race between Sen. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker. Under Alaska’s new election laws, we already voted in this second round by evaluating our decisions on a ballot.

Live coverage of the election count begins on Wednesday, November 23 at 4:00 p.m. At 6:00 p.m., Alaska Public Media will host an hour-long Alaska News Nightly special featuring election results and analysis.

Once established, election results are unofficial until certified. The Division of Elections’ target date for this is November 29.

This story is part of KTOO’s participation in the America Amplified initiative to use community engagement to inform and empower our journalism. America Amplified is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.