How Alaska’s Rank Voting Likely Gives Trump Another Loss

Lisa Murkowski has to rank as one of the most survivable against the odds politicians of our time. In 2010 she actually won back her Senate seat as a write-in candidate after losing the Republican primary. If overcoming that seems impressive, she may well exceed that standard in 2022.

Murkowski attracted the contempt of Trump based Republicans when she voted in favor of convicting him in his second impeachment trial. The Alaska state Republicans Party voted to censure her and endorsed Trump supported Kelly Tshibaka against her.

However, changes in the Alaska election process proceeded to make things very interesting. Alaska eliminated the prior system of partisan primaries, in favor of open primaries with no party affiliation. The top four vote getters in the primary appear on the general election ballot regardless of party affiliation. In theory, they could all be from the same party.

Murkowski remained popular with many Democrats and Independents, along with the dwindling number of Republicans not in the Trump cult. When Alaska’s open primary was over the four winners advancing to the general election ballot were:

Lisa Murkowski (R) — 45%

Kelly Tshibaka (R) — 39%

Patrick Chesbro (D) — 7%

Buzz Kelly (R) — 2%

Kelly subsequently suspended his campaign and endorsed Tshibaka. However, he did so too late for his name to be removed from the ballot, so it stayed.

We now get to the general election and Alaska’s unusual (though increasing in use) rank voting system. Each voter votes their preferences, ranking the candidates from 1–4. The first place votes are then counted. If any candidate receives a majority of first place votes they are the winner. If no candidate receives such majority then the bottom candidate in first place votes is eliminated and their second place votes given to the remaining candidates. If no candidate still has a majority then the third place candidate is eliminated and their second place votes attributed to the remaining two candidates. They call this a “rank voting runoff” but no new votes are cast.

The general election votes in Alaska are still being counted, but here is how the first place votes stand at this writing with 80% reporting.

Kelly Tshibaka (R) — 44%

Lisa Murkowski (R) — 43%

Patrick Chesbro (D) — 10%

Buzz Kelly (R) — 3%

The expectation is that no candidate will get a majority of the first place votes, pushing the process into “rank voting runoff.” Buzz Kelly will be eliminated and his second place votes attributed to the other candidates. Presumably most of those will be to Tshibaka, but with only 3% of the votes his contribution cannot possibly put Tshibaka over 50% if things remain about where they are now.

Thus, Democrat Chesbro will be eliminated and his second place votes attributed to Murkowski and Tshibaka. Presumably, most
Democrats put Murkowski as their second choice over Tshibaka, thus likely securing Murkowski with the win.

Should Murkowski secure the win it will further inflame Trump based Republicans and trigger even stronger Republican infighting. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s PAC backed Murkowski and even ran attack ads against Tshibaka. Various Trump supporting Republicans have already turned on McConnell for doing so and Alaska’s Republican Party censured McConnell.

The true “red wave” of 2022 will be the fratricidal blood bath amongst the Republican factions that might be describes as Trumpians vs. Normals.

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Keith

Retired lawyer & Army vet in The Villages of Florida. Lifelong: Republican (pre-Trump), Constitution buff, science nerd & dog lover. Twitter: @KeithDB80