It may not seem like it on a 95-degree day in Arkansas, but we’ve got a lot in common with Alaska. Our people are resilient, gritty, independent-minded. That’s why the new laws brought and passed by the people of Alaska on how they’ll elect their leaders is so intriguing. Alaskans wanted more say in who they elected, so they rolled up their sleeves and they did something about it.

First, you should definitely read this whole article about what Alaska did and the varied people they brought together to do it. But here are some highlights:

The change:

Instead of forcing voters to choose either a red or a blue ballot, there’s one ballot for everyone. The top 4 or 5 vote-getters proceed to the general election, regardless of party affiliation (or no party affiliation). Then, in the general, candidates are ranked to ensure they represent the majority of voters. Something to note – here in Arkansas, we already use ranked choice voting on our military ballots.

Key quotes:

“Why are these changes so powerful? Because the current way we vote — closed party primaries and uncompetitive general elections — has done something astounding over time: It actually discourages problem-solving and cooperation.”

HB1270 vote

“The two parties have a stranglehold on ballot access, meaning that so long as you keep your party happy, you’ll get reelected again and again. Conversely, this also means that if you anger your party by working across the aisle, you’ll get ‘primaried’ in a closed election.”

We have a ‘primary problem.’ Alaska has found an innovative, common sense approach to solving it.

There will be more to share on Common Ground Arkansas in the coming weeks. In the meantime, sign up for our mailing list or see how you can can help.

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