Byron Mallott

Democrat Byron Mallott will merge his Alaska gubernatorial campaign with that of Independent Bill Walker

The biggest political news of the day comes from the Alaska. There the Independent candidate for governor, Bill Walker, and the Democratic candidate, Byron Mallott, decided to merge their campaign to give them the best chance of beating Republican incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell. Walker will run for governor with Mallot as his running mate. From the Alaska Dispatch:

The Alaska Democratic Party broke with long tradition Monday when its central committee voted 89-2 to not field a gubernatorial ticket and instead put its weight behind the independent campaign of Bill Walker and Byron Mallott. [...]

The resolution passed by the central committee calls on the party to not replace Mallott and French when they officially withdraw on Tuesday. It also directs the party to throw its full support behind the independent “Alaska First Unity ticket” of Walker for governor and Mallott for lieutenant governor, something the party could do under its rules only if Walker wasn’t registered with another party.

This decision was purely the result of the bad “first-past-the-post” election rules used in most of this country, which allows candidates to win with only a plurality. This makes it extremely difficult to have more than just two parties in an election.

Polling showed Parnell had a 15 point lead in a three-way race but is tied with Walker in the head-to-head matchup.

When the opposition vote to the incumbent is split between two or more strong opponents, it allows even a very unpopular incumbent to win with as little as a third of the vote. This is the main reason why we rarely see other parties or independent candidates in American elections despite the great desire for more options and strong disappointed with both the Democratic and Republican parties.

This problem doesn’t need to exist. It is possible to use run-off election or instant run-off election systems to eliminate this destructive dynamic. If Alaska used one of these voting systems both candidates could have stayed on the ballot without fear of acting as the spoiler for the other one. It would have given the people of Alaska more choices, a more diverse public debate, even have created an incentive against negative campaigning. Instead the only option to beat Parnell is with this fusion ticket.

Photo by Philanthropy Northwest under Creative Commons license