Why Alaska’s House race still hasn’t been called for Mary Peltola

Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola (D) is ahead in Alaska’s only House race by more than 20 points with about 80 percent of votes counted as of Tuesday.

Yet the race still has not been called in her favor, due to Alaska’s ranked-choice voting system.

Republicans Sarah Palin, the former vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor, and Nick Begich are in second and third place with 26.6 percent and 24.2 percent of the vote, respectively. 

In the ranked-choice system, a candidate must receive a majority of voters’ first preferences to win outright without additional rounds being necessary. Peltola’s 47 percent is just short of the 50 percent necessary to avoid a second round.

Alaska state law also requires election officials to allow as much as two weeks for certain votes to come in.

Early votes submitted between the Friday before the election and Election Day must be counted for seven days after the election. Additionally, elections offices start counting absentee ballots seven days after the election and must conclude by 15 days after. 

Since Peltola is just short of the majority she needs to win in the first round, the remaining ballots could be crucial in determining if additional rounds are needed. All votes must be counted by Nov. 23.

If Peltola is short of a majority, the candidate who received the fewest first-place votes will be eliminated, and their votes will be redistributed to the remaining candidates according to their voters’ second preferences. 

The process will continue until a candidate receives a majority of the vote. 

About a dozen House races have not yet been called from last week’s midterm elections, but Republicans are on the verge of securing a majority in the House — though with a far slimmer margin than they expected heading into Election Day.

Alaska adopted ranked-choice voting in 2020, joining Maine to become the second state to adopt the system statewide. 

Peltola, who is the first Native Alaskan to serve in Congress, has held Alaska’s at-large House seat since September after she won a special election the month before to succeed the late Rep. Don Young (R), who held the seat for almost 50 years before his death in March. 

Peltola defeated Palin and Begich, who served as the co-chairman of Young’s 2020 reelection campaign, in the special election. Those three candidates and Republican Tara Sweeney also advanced to the November general election after receiving the most votes in a nonpartisan, blanket primary, which allows voters to vote for any candidate no matter their party registration. 

Sweeney dropped out of the race soon after the primary, causing Libertarian Chris Bye to advance to the general election. 

If additional rounds are needed, they will happen on the 15th day after the election at the office of the director of the state elections division in Juneau. 

Even if she is unable to win in the first round, Peltola will be in a strong position to win in a subsequent round, as she has a large lead over Palin and Begich. 

Bye, with less than 2 percent of the vote, will be eliminated in the first round. Palin or Begich, whoever has more votes in the second round, would need to win an overwhelming majority of second preferences from the eliminated Republican’s voters to come back and defeat Peltola. 

In the special election, Peltola held a lead in the first round with about 40 percent of the vote. Begich was eliminated after the second round, and while most of his voters chose Palin as their second choice, enough voters chose Peltola to seal her victory. 

Peltola has received endorsements from Young’s daughters and one of his former staffers and from Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), who is also waiting to learn if she has been reelected through ranked-choice voting. 

Peltola endorsed Murkowski in the Senate race.

Tags 2022 midterm elections 2022 midterms Alaska house race Don Young Mary Peltola Mary Peltola nick begich Nick Begich Ranked choice voting Sarah Palin Sarah Palin
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