Alaska, the Midterm Elections and Democracy

I am honestly am only writing about this now because I kind of promised to - and I suppose because I am procrastinating when I have much to write for my classes. Here was my ballot, and computer in the back, sitting on my desk:

I ran pretty hard to get my vote in, too, as I had to go to the post office at the last minute on election day, and I had a short space to run several blocks there and back before my class. What's more, I have to say that 37-cent postage is a modern day poll tax! (The gas people use to drive to the polls to vote physically must cost much more, but hey, I still think postage for absentee ballots should be prepaid.)

Long story short, none of the people I voted for were elected. I did vote a party line, but only after putting a lot of thought into the people I preferred in each race. Murkowski's likely victory in the Senate race, with there being significantly more write-in ballots than votes for either Miller or McAdams, is in some ways quite a surprise, but in other ways is an astounding reaffirmation of Alaska's voting values: if the incumbent is entrenched in Congress and is bringing money to the state, they can stay in office until hell freezes over. Of course, this isn't so bad. Being exasperated with Alaska for loving its Republican incumbents is old news to me - something I was pretty well used to before I could even vote. If Miller had been elected though, I don't know how my image of my state would have changed.

I actually think that the lesson that comes out of all of this is something I've been learning more about just this semester: Voting systems matter tremendously. Two parties and two candidates per election will always be the norm as long as the U.S. system remains the way it is - one election for one seat. And the sad part is that this wasn't even the inevitable choice for our country; Jefferson and Hamilton, among others, thought about proportional representation as the Constitution was constructed. If Murkowski ends up being reelected, she will keep her position having received 40% of the vote - hardly a victory for democracy. If Alaska had many representatives in Congress under a PR system, 40% of the could have been from the "pro-Murkowski party," 30% for us stolid and ever-unrepresented liberal Alaskans, and 30%, dare I say it, for Tea Party crazies.

Actually, the reality of a just PR system for Alaska would be far different from this Senate election's farce of representation: I can easily imagine growth for the Alaska Independence Party coming out of a change to PR, as votes for the AIP would no longer be wasted. New parties would assuredly form, too, perhaps for Natives or even environmentalists. The truth is, the platforms of Republicans or Democrats have never really represented the views of most Alaskans. Nor could they, considering how unique this state is.

Electoral systems all come down to what you believe democracy should be. If you believe that having a single representative produced in a simple, predictable election is all that will work for government, then I suppose the status quo is what works for you. But, on the other hand, if you want government that will truly represent our society's diversity of interests - and represent all of them in a fair and proportional way - then I think a push for PR in the United States should begin in earnest.


  1. Carol Stanton19 November, 2010

    Good on ya for voting...don't wait so long to get to the P.O. next time. I wonder if more people would vote if we had PR because they would feel that their vote actually gave them a voice in government. The party fighting and money poured into elections is really disgraceful given the need to work together and resolve problems. And as for all the money...that could help people in need...or get rid of some of the national debt. Why don't the rich people giving to campaigns pay it into taxes instead? Can you believe Miller is asking for a recount?! Oh brother!


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