In the 2020 General Election, voters approved an initiative to establish a Nonpartisan Top Four Primary Election system and a Ranked Choice Voting General Election system. There will be many changes to how we vote and how elections look. As time goes on, this webpage will be updated to include additional educational tools to help prepare you for voting in both new election systems.
What is a Nonpartisan Top Four primary election?
There will be only one ballot, with all candidates regardless of political party or political group affiliation. Voters may cast a vote for one candidate in each race, regardless of voter’s political affiliation.
Only four candidates in each race who receive the most votes will advance to the general election. The primary election no longer determines the nominee of a political party or group.
What happens when there are less than four candidates in a race?
All candidates for that race will move onto the general election.
When is the first/next election the Nonpartisan Top Four primary election system will be used?
The August 16, 2022 primary election.
Will my registered political affiliation affect who I can vote for?
No. All candidates will be on the same ballot and all voters may vote for anyone regardless of registration affiliation.
Who can run in the primary election?
Any registered voter who meets the requirements of AS 15.25.030(a) and seeks to become a candidate in the primary election can file a declaration of candidacy. Primary candidates do not need to be a member of a political party or political group.
What happens if a potential candidate misses the filing deadline?
They cannot participate in the primary election but can file paperwork to run as a write-in candidate on the general election ballot.
Can a candidate with no party affiliation still run in the general election by petition?
No. Under the new law, the nominating petition process no longer allows for candidates to run in the general election using the nominating petition process. If a candidate did not appear on the primary election ballot or was not successful in advancing to the general election, they may run as an official write-in candidate as long as they file a letter of intent at least 5 days prior to the general election.
Is there a limit as to how many candidates can file for the primary election?
Will there still be a ballot measures only ballot in the primary?
No. With a Nonpartisan primary, there is no need for a ballot measures only ballot.
What is Ranked Choice Voting?
Ranked Choice Voting allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. In the 2020 general election, voters approved an initiative to establish a Ranked Choice Voting general election system.
How does Ranked Choice Voting work?
In each race, voters will rank their choices in order of preference. The top four candidates who advanced from the primary election to appear on the ballot. If voters would like to vote for a write-in candidate, they may do so and include that candidate in the ranking. For a candidate to win, they must receive a majority (50% + 1) of total votes cast. If no candidate receives a majority of votes in the first round of counting, more rounds of counting continue until a candidate reaches a majority. This is what happens:
How are votes counted in Round 1?
Only the vote for your 1st choice candidate is counted.
How are votes counted in Round 2 and subsequent rounds?
The last place candidate from each race in Round 1 is eliminated and their supporter’s 2nd choice selections are allocated to the remaining candidates on the ballot. This vote redistribution process continues until one candidate reaches over 50% of the votes cast. In each round of counting, each voter gets one vote.
Is there a benefit of ranking multiple choices?
Yes. By ranking multiple candidates, you can still have a voice in who gets elected even if your top choice does not win. Ranking multiple candidates ensures your vote will go toward your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th choice if your top choice is eliminated, giving you more voice in who wins.
How do I mark my ballot in a Ranked Choice Voting election?
The names of candidates are listed in rows on the left side of a ballot. Numbered rankings appear in columns to the rights of the candidate names.
Voters can rank all available candidates (with an option for an official write-in candidate) in a given race using the columns on the ballot to indicate their choices. Voters may rank as many or as few candidates as they like. If voters do not want to rank some of the candidates, they can leave any remaining columns blank.
How do I vote for a write-in candidate?
To vote for a candidate whose name is not on the ballot, write the person’s name on the “Write-in” line, and fill in an oval to rank your choice.
What are the mistakes for marking a ballot in the general election that a voter needs to avoid?
Marking more than one candidate with the same ranking or marking only one candidate with all rankings or skipping more than two rankings. If you skip one rank, your votes will still count. If you skip two or more ranks, the counting will stop there and only ranks before the two skipped ranks will count. Below is the CORRECT way to mark your ballot.
Can I still vote for just one candidate?
Yes. If you prefer, you can still vote for just your 1st choice candidate. However, ranking other candidates does not harm your 1st choice.
If I rank other candidates, does it affect my first choice?
No. Only your 1st choice is counted in Round 1. Your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and other choices will be considered only if your 1st choice candidate does not win.
Do I have to rank all candidates in the general election?
No. You may rank as many or as few candidates as you would like. If you do not want to rank a candidate, leave their column blank. Be sure to NOT assign the same ranking to more than one candidate or assign all rankings to one candidate.
Can I rank my favorite candidate as my first, second, and third choice, and so on?
You should not assign all rankings to a single candidate in a race. If you rank your preferred candidate more than once, for example as your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th choice, then only your first ranking will count. Ranking a particular candidate more than once does not benefit the candidate. If a voter ranks a single candidate as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice, and so on, it is the same as leaving the second, third choice, and so on, blank. If you choose more than one candidate in a race as your 1st choice, your vote for that race will not be valid.
Can I give multiple candidates the same ranking?
No. You should not assign multiple candidates the same ranking. If you give multiple candidates the same ranking, it is considered an “over-vote.” If your ballot contains an over-vote in a race, it will be considered an “inactive ballot” because we are unable to determine which ONE candidate to allocate that ranked vote to. Unless voter intent is clear, we are forced to ignore that portion of the ballot that contains the over-voted race.
If I rank four candidates in a race, does that mean I got to vote four times?
No. You only get one vote counted per race. Your vote will only count toward your highest ranked candidate in that race who has not been eliminated. If your top choice candidate is eliminated, your vote will then count toward your next highest ranked candidate.
What will cause a race to require subsequent tabulation rounds?
If no candidate receives 50% plus one after all eligible ballots are counted.
What happens if there is a tie during one of the tabulation rounds? Which candidate gets to advance?
In the event of a tie between two candidates with the fewest votes in a round, Alaska law says the tie is resolved “by lot” to determine which candidate is eliminated and which candidate advances to the next round. Believe it or not, “by lot” means the division’s director will flip a coin or draw straws. The same applies if there is a tie for the last two remaining candidates.
What will the results on general election night look like?
The unofficial results on general election night will report only the results based on voters’ 1st choice ranking in each race. Just like past elections, all results are unofficial until the State Review Board certifies the election and all eligible absentee and questioned votes are counted.
When and where will the tabulation rounds take place?
Tabulation rounds will begin after the last counting of ballots on the 15th day following election day. This will happen in Juneau at the Director’s Office.
When can I expect results in Ranked Choice Voting elections?
It is likely that unofficial results in Ranked Choice elections will be known once all eligible absentee and questioned ballots are counted, which according to state law is 15 days after Election Day. The results will not be official until the State Review Board certifies the election.
How will I know when and why my 1st choice candidate was eliminated?
In addition to a summary report available on the division’s website, showing the final votes tallied for the winning candidate, reports will be available to show how many votes each candidate had in every round they advanced to.
What offices are elected using Ranked Choice Voting?
The bill includes President/Vice President, U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, Governor/Lieutenant Governor, and all state representatives and state senators.
Will Ranked Choice Voting be used for judges and ballot measures?
No. All judicial retentions and ballot measures will continue to run in the same yes or no fashion as in past elections.
When is the first/next election the Ranked Choice Voting system will be used?
The November 8, 2022 General Election.
Will this information be available in other languages?
Yes. Information and education materials will be translated and available on the division’s website. We will notify voters as soon as translations are available.
Who else uses Ranked Choice Voting?
Seventeen U.S. cities including San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Minneapolis use Ranked Choice Voting, in addition to the State of Maine who uses it for all federal races. It is also used by the Academy Awards.
Reading these FAQ’s is not the best way I learn. Will other educational tools be available?
Absolutely. The division will provide additional educational tools during the months leading up to the Primary and General elections to ensure voters are prepared to vote using these new election systems. This voter educational and outreach campaign, beginning no later than May 2021, will include but is not limited to: videos, live chats, presentations, print materials, graphics, practice ballots, social media posts, translated guides, interactive practice tools, and accessible guides for voters with disabilities.