Mary Peltola wins Alaska’s first RCV election, set to be first Alaska Native congressperson
Also, it's her birthday
Happy race tabulation day, Alaska!
In this edition: Mary Peltola wins it! The Bethel Democrat who launched an impressive campaign out of a crowded 48-person primary election has bested former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin. It turns out a majority of Republican voters will stick with Republicans in ranked-choice voting, but just the slimmest of majorities will stick with Palin. Palin got only 50.3% of Begich’s votes on today’s tabulation, meaning nearly a half of Begich voters either voted for Peltola or no one at all. A look at how the rankings worked and what’s next.
Current mood: 😲
That’s Alaska U.S. Rep.-elect Mary Peltola
Bethel Democrat Mary Peltola, a former state legislator who catapulted from a crowded 48-person primary to the front of the race to fill the remaining four months of U.S. Rep. Don Young’s term, is the winner of Alaska’s first ranked-choice election and will become the first Alaska Native person to serve in Congress.
Also, it’s her birthday.
Peltola came into the day with a roughly 9-point lead over Republican former Gov. Sarah Palin, but many gave Palin the edge with the state’s new election system slated to redistribute the votes that went to write-in candidates and third-place finisher Republican Nick Begich III according to voters’ preferences.
After all, Republicans will vote for Republicans… right?
That turned out to be true, but not true enough when the Alaska Division of Elections today conducted the tabulation of the first election completed under the reforms approved by voters in 2020, which implemented open primary system where the top four advance to the ranked choice general.
With a blurry livestream, the Division of Elections officials clicked through a few buttons on the state’s tabulation system, first redistributing the write-in votes and then the much bigger bloc of Begich votes according to voter preferences. The processing was near-instant, and it was Peltola’s name who appeared in green.
After some notes that the count wasn’t final because the election had yet to be certified, Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai wrapped up by saying, “So, that ends RCV for the United States special election for representative.”
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How’d the ranking go?
The whole race was going to come down to how voters—specifically Begich voters—navigated ranked choice voting. As I’ve been saying from the get-go, we shouldn’t expect RCV rankings to align neatly behind similar candidates and if there was any candidate where GOP voters wouldn’t neatly align, it’s probably Sarah Palin.
That turned out to be true.
Breaking down the numbers, only 50.3% of Begich voters ultimately aligned behind Palin, giving the Trump-endorsed celebrity an additional 27,042 votes to bring her vote total to 85,987.
That was far from enough to catch Peltola, who saw her vote total increase by 15,445 votes once Begich was eliminated to bring her vote total to 91,206.
Another 20.9% of Begich voters didn’t rank either, meaning nearly half of all Begich voters didn’t vote for the remaining Republican.
In the end, Peltola would finish with 51.5% of the vote to Palin’s 48.5%.
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