| Matt Germer | R Street |
After weeks of collecting ballots from across the Last Frontier, Alaska is set to send Republican Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Mary Peltola back to Congress. This November marked the first general election using Alaska’s “top four” format, and it’s already making good on its promise to create a healthier political culture. Candidates on both sides recognized the need to look beyond their base for support, and the winners for federal office succeeded by mobilizing the broadest coalitions.
The new system is a substantial shift from how Alaska previously conducted elections. In place of partisan primaries and a “winner-take-all” general election, candidates from all parties now appear on one primary ballot, with the top four vote-getters advancing to an instant-runoff general election.
Undoing the changes after one election cycle would be counterproductive.
In the special election, Peltola won in part because Begich voters chose not to rally behind Palin. Only 50 percent of Begich voters ranked Palin as their second choice, with 29 percent choosing Peltola and 21 percent choosing neither. In the November election, however, after months of “rank the red” messaging, 67 percent of Begich voters ranked Palin second—a strong sign that the more cooperative messaging had an effect on voters and that the new system is changing the political climate.
Nonetheless, some national Republicans blame the new election system for their party’s defeat in the congressional race, and some state lawmakers are looking to roll it back in the 2023 legislative session. While they may be upset at losing the seat in a closely divided Congress, undoing the changes after one election cycle would be counterproductive. Republicans would be wise to forward a candidate that can capitalize on the party’s substantial registration advantage in the state. The short-term pain Republicans are feeling right now creates potential for long-term gains for which all Alaskans should be grateful.