A new electoral system
Alaska, however, does not conduct its elections like other states, and Palin is not like most former governors. Normally, voters vote in partisan primaries, the top voters run in the general election under their party’s banner, and the candidate with the most votes wins the general election.
It is plausible for a candidate to run in the general election ballot with a very low (i.e. less than 10%) or high (greater than 50%) vote percentage.
Given that Palin is quite well-known, she likely initially benefits from the wide cast of candidates. All you need is a strong base of support to contest general elections in a top-four primary system.
But Palin’s notoriety also comes with the complication that she’s the candidate most likely to come under attack. Conservative rivals will want to enlist the support of people who would be inclined to vote for her. Liberal candidates will sue her because they disagree with her policies.
In most electoral systems, a candidate like Palin, assuming she wins her party’s primary, would be able to recover from all the primary barbs in the general election. Here, however, we will have four major candidates in the general election.
These could be candidates attacking Palin from left and right. We don’t know how many of each there will be.
Will there be two Republicans in the legislative elections? Will there be three? Will the four candidates all be Republicans? Maybe only one of them will be a Republican.
General Election Complications
Under the priority voting system in general elections, voters can rank their preferred candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated and their ballots are reallocated to their voters’ second-choice. If no one has a majority, then the candidate with the fewest votes after the second round will have their ballots reallocated. The candidate with the most votes after the third round would be declared the winner.
If Palin is the only Republican against a Democrat after two rounds of vote reallocation, she’s likely the favorite because of Alaska’s Republican quality.
Palin could face a more moderate Republican in the final round, however. It might prove difficult for her. Democrats, moderate Republicans and moderate independents could team up to oppose her.
Plus, alliances in the various rounds of revoting could mean Palin might not even qualify for the final round.
The electoral system of the first four at least makes the possibility of a more moderate Republican victory plausible.
Of course, you could argue that switching to a more populist GOP would only help Palin. But the absence of a partisan primary complicates its chances of general elections.
We’ll see if the former governor has what it takes to win what could be her first statewide election in about 15 years.