Perhaps not. Murkowski may have less trouble than expected in keeping her seat, thanks to a key electoral reform that Alaskans passed in November, Measure 2. Starting in 2022, Alaskans will vote in an open primary. Candidates from all parties, even those with no party, will appear on a single ballot. All voters will be able to participate. The top four vote-getters will proceed to the general election, where Alaskans will use ranked-choice voting to determine the winner. Together, these electoral reforms may create a profound shift in Alaskan politics.
Under the usual rule in American elections, each citizen votes for only one candidate, and the plurality winner is elected. Political scientists have long observed that plurality voting, in the form of a first-past-the-post system, fosters just two parties, as most voters align with those parties with a chance of electoral success. And under today’s polarization, party primaries can often reward extreme candidates. Research suggests ranked-choice voting can change this dynamic, by providing a path for median voters to be the pivotal decisionmakers. In other words, ranked choice voting systems tend to favor candidates with more moderate positions. Other research suggests that ranked-choice voting results in less hostile campaigning.