I eagerly await a study of all three binary matchups: Peltola-Begich, Begich-Palin, and Palin-Peltola.

We already know the result of the last matchup: Peltola is preferred to Palin.

But I have a sneaky suspicion from your "Bruce Cain style hot-dog stands on the beach"* picture, that Begich is preferred to both of the others which means he is the condorcet choice of the electorate.

If we processed ballots such that the winner was always the condorcet winner then every voter is incentivized to be honest about their rank ordering. As it is, we are back to gamesmanship and each voter has to consider how other voters will vote.

*Bruce Cain was a poly sci prof at Caltech in the 80's, and he is now at Stanford. He was an early pioneer of using computer methods to gerrymander (as a consultant to the dem party). He loved modelling candidates as hot dog carts on a long narrow beach.

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I work with our indigenous community in Nevada and many of them responded to Mary Peltola winning Alaska's special election with references to indigenous political culture. Many indigenous communities value leaders who build coalitions and consensus, so, it was very easy for Mary to take advantage of the ranked choice voting process that rewards candidates who can garner the most second-choice votes by building coalitions.

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I am an Alaskan, and I appreciate people’s interest in our election, but I think there is often misunderstanding from other people regarding politics if the state. You mention that Begich voters who did not rank another candidate may be “ abandoning the idea of a single axis of polarization from left to right.”. This is ignoring an very important point- that the adoption of rank choice voting by Alaskans itself was abandoning the idea of reducing politics to a single axis. That’s one of the, if not THE main motivation to adopt rank choice voting. This is true of Peltola voters, or Begich voters who ranked other candidates. People didn’t vote for rank choice voting because they believe the two party system works.

In Alaska especially, where takes on issues may differ more often from the political binary currently dominant in US politics- as the current paradigm does not heavily consider Alaskan issues and perspectives- thinking of it in this binary doesn’t serve most Alaskans. It doesn’t serve most the country realistically- viewing local issues through a lense that aggregates the American experience as a whole does not necessarily well address local issues- but that’s their journey to find out themselves. One of my biggest annoyances is hearing people call Alaskan a red state and then assuming this means its like Alabama. The reasons both places land on the republican side of a one dimensional axis are different. Religious motivations tend to be heavier in Alabama than Alaska. To ignore this is feeding the problems with the American political system. Because people hear “red state”, and then instead of listening, understanding, and thinking, their brain shuts off and they start using mental shortcuts to get to opinions and ideas. Just like you can’t take American politics and apply it directly to other countries, you can’t necessarily take average American politics and apply it it places that are more on the “fringes” of the country.

For alot of your article you continue to try to interpret rank choice voting through the lense of a single axis (or expand it to a two dimensional plane which is still very reduced given the complexity of politics), but I would argue you cannot accurately analyse what happened by doing that. I would say a large portion of the people in Alaska itself who viewed the election as a democratic v republican race are Palin voters who refuse to understand how rank-choice voting works. And I say refuse because its an easy system to understand, the people who don’t understand it in Alaska are not misunderstanding it because they are unable to understand, it’s because they don’t want to (which perhaps is a symptom of a much larger problem).

Even the assumption that Peltola or Palin is “farther from the median Alaskan voter” is a questionable claim. Median is well defined in a single dimensional space. But as we acknowledged politics are a high, very high, dimensional space, and in higher dimensional space the median can be harder to define in a universally accepted way. It also may not be the best measure of centrality for this. Because not only are there different axes on how people feel about various issues, people weight issues by importance- abortion is very important for some people. These same people may not give as much importance to immigration issues. Peltola ran a “pro-fish” campaign- trawl bycatch is probably not a top 5 issue for people in other states. And even within topics things are complex. For example there are countries where legality of abortion overall is more popular than the US, but within the US, people who are for abortion often want the ban in later terms. Countries where the overall support for legal abortion is higher may think a ban at 12 weeks gestation is fine- this is the norm in many western countries, and there is no real movement to increase it beyond that. 12 weeks would be considered highly restrictive by many if not most people who support abortion in the US.

With that said, since its a new voting system and at the end of the day is taking place in the context of American politics overall, it makes sense to not see a complete departure from the binary. For one all candidates in that particular race were affiliated with either democrats or republicans should be an indication of this. Ideally we would not see that. Additionally voters unsure of how this voting system would actually play out were probably more cautious and beholden to the political party they normally vote for. I think going forward the state will not only start getting more candidates who have no political affiliation, but also see them do well.

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