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September 1, 2022

In a fairly shocking result, Sarah Palin lost the special election runoff to fill the House seat of the late Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young to Democrat Mary Peltola. It’s the first time a Democrat has won that seat in 49 years.

Naturally, the media are beside themselves with glee that Palin won’t be in the House and that they have a story to flog about the big Democrat comeback and the end of the “red wave” talk. I know the last thing America needs right now is another Democrat in Congress, but before you start to despair, please note that this is in no way reflective of the vast majority of races coming up in November. Indeed, there will be a rematch in November for this seat. This election was just to fill it for a few months, until the end of 2022. 

First of all, Alaska is still a very red state. I won’t get into the issues with mail-in voting, because I don’t want to go down the conspiracy rabbit hole. It was enough that Alaska recently adopted a complicated and confusing ranked choice voting system, which Palin already called for repealing because she claims it gives an unfair advantage to Democrats, and it appears she was right. This is why it took over two weeks just to figure out who won a House seat. Ed Morrissey at has a good explanation of this weird, baffling and ultimately wildly unfair system.

The system asks voters to pick more than one candidate, ranking them in order of preference, so that determining who wins the seat is like predicting the winner of the Final Four. Instead of having two party primaries to pick two clear contenders, the special election primary ballot had voters pick the top four out of 22 candidates: 16 Republicans, six Democrats, two Libertarians and two Independents. In that race, Peltola won only 10% of the vote, with Republicans Palin and Nick Begich winning 27% and 19% respectively.

In the primary election, Peltola received 36.8% of the vote, Palin received 30.2% of the vote, and Begich received 26.2% of the vote. So the Republican vote was 56.4%.

Finally, in the run-off, Begich came in third, so his votes were divided up by how many voters listed either Peltola or Palin as their second choice. Palin got 50.3% of those, Peltola 28.8% and 11,000 failed to fill in a second choice. That means 11,000 voters whose first choice was a Republican saw their votes discarded while Democrat Peltola’s margin of victory was only 5,000 votes. Nearly 60% of voters chose a Republican, but the District ended up with a Democrat whose share of votes specifically for her was only 40.2%. Imagine the howls from Stacey Abrams about “voter suppression” and “assaults on our democracy” if the parties had been reversed.

Don’t take it too hard, or pay too much attention to the media trying to place a lot of importance on it. Alaska is still a red state, and far more voters wanted a Republican than a Democrat. This race was only a placeholder until the November do-over, when the choice will be clearer and turnout even larger, although the same thing could happen again if Republicans don’t start uniting and stop the intraparty squabbling. But if you have to take something away from it, try this:

NEVER let your state adopt this kind of complicated ballot system (another awful idea pioneered by California) that confuses voters, splits votes and puts the wrong candidate into office. And don’t get complacent about a “red wave.” The Democrats have put in a lot of “insurance” policies in place in the election system to make sure that their protection of “our democracy” isn’t derailed by actual democracy. So work, volunteer, donate, campaign, vote and make sure all your Republican friends and relatives VOTE. Do it as if the survival of America depended on it, because it does.

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