With the obligatory caveat that no one really knows what will happen with Alaska’s new ranked choice voting system, we have some of our first worthwhile polling on the U.S. Senate race (with the caveat that we’re 15 months away) and things are looking about as good as possible for Alaska’s U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Alaska-based pollster Ivan Moore put out the results from polling that pits Murkowski against Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka, Democratic state Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson (who has said she’s considering a run) and conservative political opportunist Joe Miller (who finished second in 2010 as a Republican and 2016 as a libertarian).
With ranked choice voting in place for the 2022 election (having survived a poorly assembled legal challenge) things are looking significantly different than in Murkowski’s previous elections. Gone is the semi-closed party primary that saw Miller defeat Murkowski in 2010 (she went on to win a write-in). Gone, too, is the ability of any candidate to win with anything less than a majority of the vote, a threshold that Murkowski has never crossed in her three races for U.S. Senate (48.6% in 2004, 39.5% in 2010 and 44.4% in 2016).
Under the slate of voter-approved reforms, all of Alaska’s statewide elections will be conducted with an open primary system where the top four finishers regardless of party affiliation will advance to the general election. That race will be conducted with ranked choice voting where voters indicate their preference for each candidate. In the event that a candidate doesn’t cross the 50% threshold on the initial round of results, the candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated and their votes redistributed based on those rankings. That process would repeat until a candidate crosses that 50% threshold.
Under Moore’s polling, things would go down to the wire but Murkowski would ultimately prevail:
- Lisa Murkowski wiht 36%
- Kelly Tshibaka with 27%
- Elvi Gray-Jackson with 19%
- Joe Miller with 18% (thus, Miller gets eliminated)
- Kelly Tshibaka with 40% (+13)
- Lisa Murkowski with 39% (+3)
- Elvi Gray-Jackson with 21% (+2) (thus, Gray-Jackson is eliminated)
- Murkowski with 55% of the vote (+15)
- Tshibaka with 45% (+5)
- The polling covers 947 respondents with a 3.2% margin of error
- Was conducted online between July 11 and July 21, which is prior to the headlines about Tshibaka’s fish and game violations.