The offical ballot for the Aug. 16, 2022, Special General Election features ranked choice voting. (State of Alaska Divison of Elections)

The offical ballot for the Aug. 16, 2022, Special General Election features ranked choice voting. (State of Alaska Divison of Elections)

Opinion: Alaskans deserve an election system that represents our differences

The new system’s goal is to make this election cycle transparent, secure and easy for all Alaskans to vote

  • By Mike Navarre
  • Thursday, July 28, 2022 9:06pm
  • Opinion

By Mike Navarre

Here in Alaska, many things differentiate us from the Lower 48.

The sheer geographic scale of our state, for one thing, as well as the harsh environmental conditions and diverse peoples and industries, set us apart. There’s also our sense of self-sufficiency, the strength of our communities, and a deep sense of who we are and what we value.

In 2020, Alaskans pioneered a new direction in civic engagement and implemented a system of voting that better fits those differences. Alaska’s new election system was put to the test last month — and so far, it’s proven to serve both Alaskans and our interests well.

The final four candidates projected to advance to the special general election better represented the swath of Alaskan political views than our previous primary system ever could. The final group of candidates made up of two Republicans, one Democrat, and one independent, mirrored the wider political alignments of Alaskans across the state.

Even with the withdrawal of Al Gross, the independent candidate, the remaining candidates offer distinct choices.

The three advancing finalists come from communities across the state: from Anchorage, Mat-Su and Bethel. They each bring different levels of experience from diverse sectors, from the state Legislature and governor’s office to fisheries and the private sector.

To be sure, the final three candidates represent a breadth of experience and diversity that Alaskans haven’t seen in decades.

Alaskans are no stranger to charting new paths, which is exactly what this election represents. Though our new election system made its debut months earlier than expected, as a result of the passing of Congressman Don Young, we turned out in droves to vote.

Turnout was 27.55% — higher than the previous three regular primary elections, which is especially notable since special elections, such as this one, are notoriously low-turnout.

The new system’s goal is to make this election cycle transparent, secure and easy for all Alaskans to vote.

Come Aug. 16, we’ll have our regular “pick one primary” and the special ranked choice voting general election for our single seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on the same ballot. Alaskans will have the opportunity to rank candidates in their order of preference and elect someone with majority support to fill the late Congressman Young’s seat through January.

In November, during the general election, Alaskans will use ranked choice voting for all races up and down the ballot, from governor to U.S. senator, congressional representative, and state legislators.

I supported this election reform because Alaskans deserve an election system that represents our differences; one that celebrates the diversity of thought, geography, industry, and political persuasion, and where our elected officials are accountable to the voters, rather than political parties and party bosses.

It’s clear that this new system that Alaskans voted to implement two years ago is a positive change that Alaskans should embrace.

Mike Navarre is a former Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor who has served as a representative in the Alaska Legislature.

More in Opinion

A roll of “I voted” stickers sit at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Juneau in 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Strengthening democracy: Native vote partners to boost voter registration

GOTNV and VPC are partnering to send over 4,000 voter registration applications this month to addresses and P.O. boxes all over Alaska

Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower after he was found guilty of all counts in his criminal trial in New York on May 30.
Opinion: Trump’s new fixers

Fixers from Alaska and elsewhere step in after guilty verdict

Ballot booths are set up inside Kenai City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Perspective from an election worker

Here is what I know about our Kenai Peninsula Borough election system

Apayauq Reitan, the first transgender woman to participate in the Iditarod, tells the House Education Committee on March 30, 2023, why she opposes a bill restricting transgender rights. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The imaginary transgender sports crisis

House Bill 183 is a right-wing solution to a problem that doesn’t exist now and never will.

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Session ends with budget, dividend and bills passed

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Listen to PAs; support Senate Bill 115: Modernizing PA Practice in Alaska

Health care is rapidly evolving, demanding a more flexible and responsive system

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Opinion: Hilcorp Alaska: Powering Southcentral Alaska — past, present and future

Hilcorp Alaska has and will continue to fully develop our Cook Inlet basin leasehold

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024 (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Collegiality matters

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Juneau Empire file photo
Larry Persily.
Opinion: Alaska might as well embrace the past

The governor, legislators, municipal officials and business leaders are worried that the Railbelt will run short of natural gas before the end of the decade

The Alaska State Capitol on March 1. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Physicians oppose Alaska Senate Bill 115 — Independent Practice for PAs

Alaskans don’t want access to just any health care, they want access to high quality care

Norm McDonald is the deputy director of Fire Protection for the Alaska Division of Forestry & Fire Protection. (Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service)
The Swan Lake Fire can be seen from above on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alaska Wildland Fire Information)
Opinion: This wildfire prevention month, reflect on ways to protect each other and our communities from wildfire

Alaskans saw what happened in Canada last year, and they know it can happen here too