Alaska’s ranked choice voting and top-four primary are legal, judge says

State election officials produced a prototype of a ranked-choice ballot. (Alaska Division of Elections)

A Superior Court judge has ruled Alaska’s new ranked choice voting system and open primary are legal.

Judge Gregory Miller rejected arguments that the new election method violates the right of free association.

The legal challenge was filed by the Alaskan Independence Party, a frequent Libertarian party candidate and a Republican attorney.

Miller’s decision, if it stands, clears the way for the state to conduct the 2022 elections by the rules voters adopted last year under Ballot Measure 2.

RELATED: This lawsuit stands between Alaskans and a new ranked choice election system

The new system gives less power to political parties. 

In the open primary, all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, appear on one ballot. The top four vote-getters advance to the general. On the November ballot, voters will rank the candidates, one through four. If no candidate wins a majority in the first round, the last-place finisher would be eliminated, and their ballots re-allocated to the voters’ next-choice candidate, until one wins a majority.

The plaintiffs in the case have not yet announced whether they will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She's @lruskin on Twitter. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz

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