Palin Pins Blame for Loss on Ranked Choice Voting

The former governor says the ‘newfangled, cockamamie system called ranked choice voting’ caused to lose her bid for Alaska’s only congressional seat.

Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP
Sarah Palin at her campaign headquarters in Alaska. Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP

On the heels of a historic defeat in Alaska, the former governor and vice presidential contender, Sarah Palin, is blaming ranked choice voting and voter fraud for her loss.

Ms. Palin appeared on “Steve Bannon’s War Room” to air her contempt for “this newfangled, cockamamie system called ranked choice voting,” claiming without evidence that it is “very, very potentially fraught with fraud.”

“It doesn’t matter if you perhaps are the most popular or most qualified candidate,” she said. “You can get a whole lot of votes, Steve, but if you don’t get enough second or third rankings from voters who choose another candidate, then you’re eliminated or then you get second place.”

Ms. Palin lost her bid for Alaska’s only seat in the House to Democrat Mary Peltola in an at-large election last month. Alaska had been represented in the House by Congressman Don Young, a Republican, since 1973. He held the seat when he died earlier this year.

Ms. Palin blamed her loss on the voting system, which she claimed benefits Democrats and prevents the Republican Party from consolidating around one candidate.

“This newfangled experiment with ranked choice voting will split votes,” she said. “It will allow liberals to skip on in.”

Senator Cotton seemed to agree, tweeting that “60 percent of Alaska voters voted for a Republican, but thanks to a convoluted process and ballot exhaustion — which disenfranchises voters — a Democrat ‘won.’”

“Ballot exhaustion” refers to voters in ranked choice elections listing their first-choice candidate without picking a second choice. About 11,000 voters — enough to swing the race — did so, voting for the other Republican in the race, Nick Begich, without selecting a second choice, meaning they either didn’t like Ms. Palin or Ms. Peltola, or didn’t understand the ballot.

Mr. Begich is already attempting to capitalize on the idiosyncrasies of ranked choice votes, saying that in November a “vote for Sarah Palin is in reality a vote for Mary Peltola.”

Although Ms. Palin claims that it doesn’t matter how popular a candidate is in ranked choice elections, she was never actually ahead of Ms. Peltola in the popular vote.

In the first round, Ms. Peltola carried 40 percent of first-choice votes compared to Ms. Palin’s 31 percent. In the final result, Ms. Peltola carried 51 percent of the vote compared to Ms. Palin’s 49 percent.

This happened because Mr. Begich was eliminated in the first round and his votes were redistributed to the voters’ second choice candidates, giving Ms. Peltola an outright majority.

Ms. Palin blamed the political establishment for the outcome, and for Mr. Begich not being forced out of the race by Republican Party leadership after the primary.

Either candidate could have dropped out of the race to consolidate Republican support behind the other, but they refused to do so. 

After her defeat, Ms. Palin called for Mr. Begich to drop out of the November election, but the deadline, September 5, came and went without either candidate budging.

Now, the November race is shaping up to be a repeat of the August special election, with a nearly identical roster of candidates and similar issues.

The principal pollster for Alaska Survey Research, Ivan Moore, says the “candidates are almost 100 percent likely to be Palin, Begich, and Peltola,” plus the assistant secretary of the interior for Native American affairs, Republican Tara Sweeney.

Ms. Palin’s high statewide disapproval rating will be working against her in November, much as it did in August. Just more than half, 51 percent, of Alaskans disapprove of Ms. Palin, according to an April poll.

The first Libertarian member of Congress, Justin Amash, spoke to this point in a tweet, laying out how ranked choice voting eliminates unpopular candidates.

“The problem for the Republican Party in Alaska wasn’t ranked-choice voting; it was their candidates,” he said. “Requiring a candidate to get more than 50% to be elected isn’t a scam; it’s sensible.”

The New York Sun

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