Unified Against Tshibaka? Voter Strategy Under Ranked-Choice
by gabriel dawson
Since early January, Alaska’s Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has been on the receiving end of harsh criticism from former President Donald Trump because of her party disloyalty. “She represents her state badly and her country even worse … I do not know where other people will be next year, but I know where I will be– in Alaska campaigning against a disloyal and very bad Senator.” As Trump’s ideological hold over Republican voters and politicians persists, it would seem that Murkowski has no chance for reelection this fall. This would be the case in a standard election; however, Alaska’s recent adoption of Top-Four Ranked-Choice voting has the potential to change this. An open primary and voters’ ability to rank multiple candidates rather than select one will mean that Republican voters are no longer the sole deciders of her electability.
As it currently stands, the race is predominantly held by three candidates. Trump-loyal Tshibaka (39%), who would be favored to win under a standard electoral system, the Democrat Gross (25%), and incumbent Republican and Trump-critic Murkowski (19%), whose support from Republicans is low but appeals to Democrats as the lesser of two evils when compared with Tshibaka. Republican voters will likely know whether Tshibaka’s or Murkowski’s brand of conservatism is more attractive to them, but Alaskan Democrats will have a much more interesting calculation to make.
To the extent that there is a loose coalition between Democrats and moderate Republicans in Alaska (unified in their opposition to Tshibaka), this group would seem to have three options that will make them successful in defeating her. Either Gross supporters can vote first for Gross and Murkowski supporters for Murkowski, they can unify around the one that is polling higher (Gross), or they could unify around Murkowski. However, while it may not be immediately obvious, the only option that will bring them success will be the latter.
While Democrats see Murkowski as a better option than Tshibaka and are likely to select her second, Murkowski voters still prefer Tshibaka to Gross. This means that if Murkowski is eliminated, rather than Gross gaining Murkowski votes, Tshibaka will gain them, putting her even further ahead of Gross. Conversely, Gross’s votes will be diverted to Murkowski if Gross is eliminated, putting her ahead of Tshibaka.
Based on Gross’ more successful polling, if voters list their favorite candidate first, Murkowski will be eliminated. If they do not want their vote to favor Tshibaka, Gross voters and Murkowski voters must list Murkowski first. Of course, this representation of expected voter behavior is generalistic, speculative, and relies on imperfect polling data. It is also entirely possible that Gross will gain even more support throughout his campaign, making him more competitive with Tshibaka, regardless of voter strategy. However, this does not mean that it should be discounted. No one knows what the results of this election will be, but for Democrats who would not like to see Tshibaka elected, this must be kept in mind.
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE NEWS, LLC. Sol de Medianoche is a monthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska