Alaska’s ‘Final Four’ vote may be a model for the nation


Regardless of the outcome of this week’s special election, Alaskans are demonstrating to Americans that there is a better way to elect our leaders — one that encourages politicians to appeal to all citizens, not just party loyalists.

Tomorrow, Alaskans will use ranked-choice voting (also called “instant trickle-down”) to select the person to complete the term of the late Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). This special election is the first time Alaskans will use “Final Four voting” — an electoral innovation that replaces party primaries with an open primary and uses choice voting in general elections.

One fact is undeniable: right now, our democracy is not working. Political discourse is characterized by extreme polarization, almost unprecedented incivility, and legislative dysfunction. However, these are not bugs in our current political system, but rather features that work exactly as intended. The incentives built into the system (gerrymandered districts, closed primaries and win-win voting) perpetuate extreme polarization. Those we elect are not rewarded for working cooperatively with all parties to solve our nation’s problems. On the contrary, consensus builders are more often punished and defeated in their party’s next primary for not being partisan enough. This is a structural design issue.

The Final Four vote is designed to change those incentives. With the top four voters in the primary qualifying for the general election, it rewards those who work cooperatively, stretch across party lines and appeal to the broad moderate middle of the political spectrum. And, according to field researchers in Alaska, it achieves exactly that.

The Sightline Institute’s recent report, “In Alaska’s Special Election, A Bipartisan Mindset Makes Sense” noted, “Candidates are making subtle appeals to opposing party voters and avoiding attacks across party lines, at least so far. …” and “Alaska’s US House special the election shows that, at least in some cases, ranked ballots can encourage voters and candidates to reach out to the opposing party.

Contrary to the Wall Street Journal’s recent characterization of the new system as making “an Alaskan politics joke,” we applaud Alaskan voters for embracing a method of voting that reintroduces reasonableness into the electoral process. No matter who wins, Final Four voting is a better system that encourages collaboration among elected officials rather than the divisive politics we all hate.

Even before the election, the new incentive system was having an impact. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (Alaska) work over the past two years to forge bipartisan compromises on key legislation — from voting rights to infrastructure — is likely attributable to her freedom from a partisan primary. Interestingly, two of the other leaders who work across the political aisle with her in such efforts are often Republican Senator Susan Collins and Independent Senator Angus King, both of Maine – the only other State that also uses preferential voting in its federal elections.

Critics have argued that the new system is confusing. Yes, there has been a lot to confuse voters this year. The removal of one of the top four special election candidates in Alaska has created some problems, as the Final Four is now the Final Three. And the combination of tomorrow’s ballot having both the “general” special election and the primary for the same seat is a little confusing. But the system is new, and we have confidence in the ability of Alaskan voters to sift through the noise and rank their preferences — just as our military personnel and foreign voters have done in at least five states for many years. . We also hope the critics don’t suggest that Alaskans aren’t as capable as the citizens of Maine, who have successfully used ranked voting since 2018.

We represent a group of business leaders committed to making our democracy work better. As Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, we are Americans first, engaged in nonpartisan efforts to make our democracy work to produce solutions that are in the common interest. We congratulate the citizens of Alaska for endorsing the innovative voting initiative that created Alaska’s Final Four voting system. We salute Alaskans for boldly deciding to change their electoral system.

Although change is often difficult, it is worth it. We all deserve a system that inspires our elected officials to work cooperatively to solve our country’s pressing problems. We all deserve a democracy that works.

Neal Simon is the former CEO of financial advisory firm Bronfman Rothschild. Todd Dipaola is the CEO of marketing company InMarket. They represent a coalition of entrepreneurs who are in favor of preferential voting systems.


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