Republican Senator Tom Cotton referred to ranked-choice voting as “a scam” after an Alaska Democrat won the state’s House special election with only 40% of first place votes in the initial count.
Cotton made the comment in a Twitter post following the announcement that Democrat Mary Peltola won Alaska’s only House seat despite Republican candidates Sarah Palin and Nick Begich III winning a combined 58% of the state’s first place preference votes.
“Ranked-choice voting is a scam to rig elections,” Cotton tweeted.
Ranked-choice voting is a scam to rig elections.
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) September 1, 2022
“60% of Alaska voters voted for a Republican, but thanks to a convoluted process and ballot exhaustion — which disenfranchises voters — a Democrat ‘won,’” the senator wrote in a second post.
The initial returns of the House special election on August 16 showed Peltola with 39.7% of votes, Palin with 30.9%, and Begich with 27.8%.
Under the state’s new ranked-choice system, voted into place by Alaskans in 2020, Peltola’s “final rank” was 51.5% to Palin’s 48.5% in the results announced on Wednesday.
In the ranked-choice system, ballots are counted in rounds. A candidate can win outright with more than 50% of the vote in the first round.
If no candidate receives at least half of the votes, the lowest-ranking candidate is eliminated. Voters who chose the lowest-ranking candidate as their top pick have their votes count for their second-ranked choice.
The rounds continue until two candidates remain, with the victory going to the candidate with the most votes in the final rank.
The battle to replace the late Rep. Don Young (R-AK) was expected to go in favor of Republicans. The new system has instead led to the election of the first Democrat to win the state’s at-large congressional district in decades.
The ranked-choice system was promoted as a way to improve a voting system in a state that heavily sides with one party and often sees a large number of candidates. For example, Palin and Begich emerged from a primary field of more than 40 candidates.
Both Alaska’s House seat and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski face another election in November.
For Peltola’s part, the news was celebratory. Her win at the age of 49 comes after Young held the state’s seat for 49 years. She is also the state’s first Alaskan native and the first woman to be elected to the position.
“Alaskans have made clear they want a rational, steadfast, honest and caring voice speaking for them in Washington D.C., not opportunists and extremists associated with the Alaska Republican Party,” state Democratic party chair Michael Wenstrup said in a statement following the win. The state plans to certify the results on Friday.