This week, all eyes are on Alaska, following the results of the state’s first-ever ranked-choice voting (RCV) election — a special U.S. House contest that sent Democrat Mary Peltola to Congress over former Gov. Sarah Palin for the final few months of the late Rep. Don Young’s term. Alaska Republicans will have a chance to learn from their mistakes in November. Instead of blaming RCV, a stronger “rank the red” strategy where candidates, campaigns, and the state party explicitly encourage conservative voters to rank Republicans first and second on their ballot will put this seat back into the GOP’s hands.
Yet all the attention on Alaska’s unusual new system, which combines a nonpartisan primary and an RCV general election, may be masking a better reason for Republicans to consider RCV — it could improve crowded primary elections.
Here’s the problem: The number of federal primaries with more than three candidates has tripled over the past 20 years. More conservatives’ running for office should be a good thing, but these crowded primaries inevitably devolve into bitter mudslinging and negative campaigning — and, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently made clear, they can have a negative impact on “candidate quality” and our ability to win seats in November.