Column: A tale of two states

Jim Roher
Posted 9/28/22

Recent and ongoing primary elections around the country are nominating the candidates for the upcoming midterm elections in November that will determine control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

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Column: A tale of two states

Posted

Recent and ongoing primary elections around the country are nominating the candidates for the upcoming midterm elections in November that will determine control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. The way that Pennsylvania and Alaska ran their nomination processes could not have been more different. 

As you may have read, Pennsylvania may determine which party holds the majority in the Senate beginning in January. The two candidates running for the Senate job are Dr. Oz and John Fetterman. One will replace the very popular and highly respected Sen. Pat Toomey who is retiring after two six-year terms. Neither of the two candidates is popular, and Pennsylvania voters are wondering how such unattractive candidates became the only choice they were given. Here’s how it happened:

Pennsylvania has closed primaries, and you must be a registered Democrat or Republican to cast your vote in a primary election. Because of this restrictive policy, only 11% of voters identify themselves as unaffiliated in Pennsylvania verses 40% unaffiliated in our state. In Colorado, as you know, unaffiliated voters can vote for any candidate. There were eight candidates, four on each side, in the Pennsylvania primaries. The two winners were the most extreme in their views and were the candidates each party favored. In essence, these two unpopular candidates were chosen by the parties. 

Now, let’s look at what happened in Alaska. Over 20 candidates ran, and the three with the highest total were selected to run in a special runoff election. All voters, of which 47% are unaffiliated, were able to vote.

In the election, the voters had chosen a system called ranked-choice voting. Voters rank the candidates, in this case, first choice, second choice and third choice. In this system, when the votes are counted, If no candidate gets 50%, the last place finisher is dropped, and second place votes are added to the others. The idea here is to determine who is the most popular candidate with the voters, rather than who gets the most first ballot votes.

One of the three was Sarah Palin. She was second before the second choices were added and she remained second. At first glance, it might be argued that she lost to a Democrat while she split votes with another Republican. In reality, she had fewer first- and second-place votes. In short, she was less popular among all voters. In Alaska, the voters chose the candidates, while in Pennsylvania, the parties chose.

I freely admit that my allegiance to either party is zero. I can’t see evidence that either party is seeking solutions for our country, rather they only seek reelection. I always try, in my analysis, to consider the resume and character of the candidate, not their party.

Of course, for legislators, their basic legislative philosophy concerning the roles of government is also important to me. Overall, I favor those who don’t promote some shiny new government program, which is often unaffordable.

On the other hand, sometimes we must spend. Those who I believe will sort out the facts and vote accordingly are likely to get my votes. There are too few of those types of legislators, you might say, and you would be mostly correct. When more states adopt ranked-choice voting systems, we will have the opportunity to elect such people.

Voter dissatisfaction with our candidate choices is widespread. The quality of our candidates will not improve until voters wrestle the nominating process from the parties. 

Jim Rohrer of Evergreen is a business consultant and author of the books “Improve Your Bottom Line … Develop MVPs Today” and “Never Lose Your Job … Become a More Valuable Player.” Jim’s belief is that common sense is becoming less common. More about Jim at www.theloyaltypartners.com.

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