Policy Studies Electoral Reform

Evaluating the Effects of the Top-Four System in Alaska


Ryan Williamson
Former Resident Fellow, Governance

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Executive Summary

In 2020, Alaska modified its electoral process to a top-four ranked choice voting system and away from more traditional partisan primaries, making Alaska the first state to do so for state executive and legislative races, as well as federal congressional seats. The 2022 cycle was the first time an alternative system was employed in the state, first with a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Rep. Don Young, and then for all other legislative and statewide elections in November. A review of initial evidence found that races in the state became more civil and competitive overall, and, despite it being a major change in process, the top-four approach caused little disruption in the composition of government. Elected officials and incumbents continued to fare well under the new format compared with their performance in recent traditional elections.

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