Anchorage needs ranked choice voting

So, this is for newcomers to Anchorage. Yes, we do a lot of strange things. We wear shorts while there is still snow on the ground and insist if it’s April, it must be spring. We pull out more fishing gear from our garages than is seen in most 3rd world countries. And we hold elections in the spring.

Why, you may reasonably ask, do we do that? Well, if I remember rightly, Anchorage had a big discussion about how its elections were lost in the furor of state and national elections held in the fall. So, local elections were moved to spring. You know, spring – when Alaskans certainly have nothing else on their minds but going out to vote in elections that cannot compete with the siren song of that fishing gear, that RV that needs to be prepped for summer, that garden that needs cleaning to be ready for the next crop of homegrown veggies.

The results of changing the local elections to spring have been varied. But to claim that doing it brought a whole bunch more votes in might not be entirely, or at all, accurate.

Now, this year, we are faced with a run-off. That means that voters who were barely paying attention at the beginning of spring are now expected to keep focused on politics well into spring. While voting by mail certainly has helped these types of situations, I propose that if Anchorage would simply adopt the ranked choice voting method, we could all be in our RVs already, heading towards whatever water will offer us our first fish and with the satisfaction of knowing that we’d done our civic duty before taking off for fun.

There is a group working to overturn this type of voting in state elections because they feel it is too complicated for the average Alaskan to understand. My feeling is that if you can’t figure out ranked choice voting, maybe you shouldn’t be voting at all. I mean, seriously, all you have to do is mark your first, second and third choice. Or only mark your first choice. Or only mark your first and second choice. No one is standing over you insisting you vote for more than one. But certainly, voting for a first and second, at a minimum, will mostly give us winners without having to vote again. And despite what some might say, as far as I can tell, the outcome of voting either way – ranked choice or two separate elections – is about the same.

So, the real question to ask is why some people are so frightened or baffled by ranked choice voting. For certain political parties, the problem is a desire to keep themselves closed off from any voter who hasn’t signed up with them and pledged allegiance to the party beyond all else. This assures the group in question that the only candidate appearing on the ballot in their name is someone of whom they completely approve, someone they have vetted and accepted as one of their own. Apparently for some, the idea of voting for a candidate based on their policy beliefs and upstanding character is not acceptable. You should only vote for those candidates who have the right letter next to their name.

Ah yea, American politics at their finest. I grew up watching this in Atlantic City where the party bosses ruled, and your job was very dependent on who you supported in any given campaign. When my mother walked me up to City Hall to get my working papers when I was 14, her only words of advice to me were to never declare a political party in case I declared the wrong one.

Maybe this is why I like ranked choice voting so much. I can vote for the candidate of my choice. And if he or she doesn’t win, I can mark my second choice. And I can do all this without declaring for a particular party which means I can vote for the candidates I feel are my best choices.

Anchorage needs ranked choice voting, especially if it plans to keep its elections in the spring. Voting once while untangling fishing lines is more than enough distraction from the true meaning of spring in Alaska – fishing!