- by Thomas Costanzo & Mara Cohen
9/03/2022 Mary Peltola wins the special election after Representative Don Young's death, emerging triumphant; as the first Democrat to represent Alaska in almost 50 years.
This is how it went down; Alaska's Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) played a huge role in Ms. Peltola's 3-point victory over a former beauty queen, and half-time Governor, endorsed by the ruthless ex-president, whose name I am unable to utter.
The Alaska race is the second time in 4 years that an underdog candidate upset the favorite in a state that implemented RCV. In 2018 Maine enacted Rank Choice Voting and incumbent Bruce Poliquin lost to Jerrod Golden, as many more of the initial votes for the independent candidate were redistributed to Golden than to Poliquin. Being a sore loser, like another recent, more infamous incumbent, Poliquin challenged the results, but the courts ruled against him. At least Maine was spared a siege on its capital led by the sore loser and the mascot in cow horns and a hair shirt.
Rank Choice Voting offers the option to rank, in order of preference, the candidates voters want to see in office. People can cast a ballot vote for anyone running, even choices that cross party lines. This process proceeds through multiple rounds and the candidates who did not receive sufficient votes to stay in the running are eliminated with their votes shifting to that voter's next highest pick.
In the race between Peltola and Palin, 15,000 voters whose first choice was Republican Nicholas Begich III, crossed party lines and picked Peltola as their second choice. 11,000 Begich voters declined a second choice. The astonishing outcome; Peltola, an Alaskan Native, and lifelong Democrat, won in a state that's been a Republican stronghold for nearly half a century.
Rank Choice Voting holds the promise of correcting the gross inadequacies of our usual 'First Past the Post' voting system. At this inflection point, we must ask ourselves a very important question: Why does competition in elections not produce in the political arena the same win-win results that we see in the private sector?
Businesses that produce winning products and services win, and their customers win. How does the Democrat / Republican Duopoly keeps getting elected over and over and over again while producing incompetent and sometimes disastrous results? I mean really, how is this even possible? They, the Patrician class do great, yet Us, the Plebeian class, the nation, and the whole world for that matter continues to do worse and worse until what is left? They win - We lose! Does anyone not see the problem here?
The one thing almost all Americans can agree on is; "Washington is broken," It is also the one thing most of us are wrong about. Washington isn't broken, it's doing exactly what it's designed to do. It's simply designed to serve the Patrician class not us, We the People, or the public interest.
Political rules are constructed and continuously fine-tuned to benefit the political class and their deep-pocketed gain-seeking benefactors. Who benefits? The Democratic and Republican parties; are a textbook duopoly, which is completely disconnected from the needs of the people. Who else benefits? The massive organizations that are in the business of politics; have a huge monopoly giving off the illusion of choice.
The root cause of this political dysfunction, which endures across all election cycles, administrations, and political parties, is the perverted rules of the game. These rules make prisoners of everyone, including almost everyone in political office, and if you vote that includes you too!
"I don't care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating." Boss Tweed
First, we have Bad Rule # 1. Party primaries. These first-round elections, designed to obliterate all but one candidate from each party, are more important than most people think Their outcomes determine who gets to run, and it then serves the voting public one choice and one choice only. Except for party hacks, highly ideological voters, and special interest groups, many people skip the primaries and wait to vote for whoever is served up as "their" party's choice. The primaries identify the single Republican and single Democrat who appear on the general election ballot, limiting voter choice to the winners of a contest many did not even participate in. Nationwide, only 17.3 percent of eligible voters participate in and subsequently decide, who you get to vote for.
The only way to make it to the general election is to appeal to a political party's most extreme adherents and capture their votes in the primaries. Perfect example: Liz Cheney's courageous vote to impeach a sociopathic ex-president for inciting a riot to overthrow the will of the people and instate himself, in perpetuity, as dictator. As President for Life, he would be the United States' first dictator, and our democracy would cease to exist.
Liz Cheney was ousted as Conference Chair by the Republican Party and then voted out of the 2022 general election because she voted to impeach the standing president. Candidates who seek to stay securely in the bosom of their parties, have no choice but to publicly embrace and endorse whatever extreme ideological ideas are floating around in the heads of their party's leaders.
Bad Rule #2: First Past The Post (FPTP) voting. In any industry as massive as the US political system, with only two competitors and this much customer dissatisfaction, a bright entrepreneur would see a phenomenal business opportunity. That bright-eyed individual would become a new competitor. Choices would widen, thus drawing more 'customers' into the game. But that can't happen in the US political system. Our parties are under no pressure to serve the public interest. Why? Because the antiquated system of FPTP voting keeps out almost all new competition: What are the customers, the voters left with? Any candidate with even more than 50% of the vote takes it all. They win, and the American voters don't realize it, but they have lost.
In cases where a 3rd party "spoiler" and no candidate achieves 50%+1 votes, a "runoff" election is held and the lowest performing candidate is eliminated from the race. Generally, the 3rd party is eliminated and we are back to the same R vs. D race and again nothing substantial changes.
This combined with the party primaries leaves the electorate the insane option for candidates that the majority of people don't want. The spoiler problem that comes from plurality voting is the single biggest reason almost nobody new outside the duopoly ever runs or gets any traction because everyone knows they don't stand a chance.
Politics is the only industry where we're regularly told that less competition is better. The Patrician class constantly tells us if we want things to be different then we need to go out and vote. Plebeians need more options and more ability to exercise those options other than Tweedle-Dee or Tweedle-Dum.
Bad Rule # 3: People are not paid to vote or are excluded to vote. We need more input from the population, let's start paying people to vote, this means everyone. Doesn't matter if you're three years old and the parent fills out the ballot for you or you're on death row, for a truly representative society, as we constantly claim to be, everyone's opinion matters. Rights supposedly are fundamental to our system of government. You either have them or you don't. When we carve out exceptions for those rights, now they are privileges…not rights.
We can start by paying people $100 for their vote, amortized by inflation given to children at birth. The minors' money would be deposited in a trust fund for when they are at the age of majority.
This country spends way more on this, to blow humanity to smithereens. If a business wants people's opinions, they pay them for them. Yet these opinions that carry the weight of law people don't get a dime for and sometimes have to wait in long lines to cast. These are some of the most important opinions in society... People deserve to be paid for them!
The RCV election system in Alaska was inspired by Katherine Gehl, the founder of the Institute for Political Innovation. Geld, originally a Republican, then a follower of Ross Perot; she subsequently switched to the Democratic Party and served on Barack Obama's 2008 finance committee. Due to a distaste with other constituents' strategies utilized in the 2012 recall attempt of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Katherine Geld left the Democratic party and became, in her own words; 'politically homeless.'
After working several years with centrist policy organizations, Gehl was inspired by "Parties vs the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans", by Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman turned political watchdog.
Ms. Gehl sold her stake in the family business Gehl Foods and rededicated herself to election reform. Her primary interest was in alternatives to the Republican / Democrat Duopoly, which she identified as the main reason politics do not work for most Americans.
"We're in a democracy, but our general elections are meaningless in 85% of the cases, and we act like that's normal" - Katherine Gehl.
Katherine Gehl championed a system, combined with RCV, with a runoff among the top 4 finalists, similar to the state of Alaska election system. Later with Michael E. Porter, she co-authored "The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy" expounding on Rank Choice Voting in 2017.
Attorney Scott Kendall was inspired by this publication to spearhead the Alaskan ballot measure to incorporate RCV. He also helped draft the language of the 2020 ballot measure and defend it in court. Mr. Kendall argued that low-turnout party primaries have too often allowed "10 percent of the most extreme or most partisan constituents in a district to determine the winners."
He added, "these partisans want zero cooperation with the other side and that is a huge part of the problem: retribution for doing things we would expect and hope that our public officials do."
The Alaska 2020 ballot measure 2 was passed by the tiniest of margins; only 3,781 votes.
Today Gehl is moving to involve other states in enacting RCV, however, the resistance she is encountering is strong. The political class does not appear to want to give the electorate any significant say, or choice in the matter of who gets to run for what.
RCV patricians and opponents voice numerous reasons to justify their stance that RCV does not work, or that it leads to other, unknown, apparently apocalyptic consequences.
A few of the noteworthy negations: It's new; It requires education; it requires ballot counting and ballot counting costs more and the idea that people don't get vetted through the primary system; a concept that worked so well with the psychopath who almost took over the whole country in 2021.
It is fair to say all these arguments are frivolous, all thinly veiled smoke screens designed to create false narratives to protect the system that does not work for the American people.
This country was founded on the innovation of our political system, it is time that we realize how broken it is before it implodes before our very eyes.