Sarah Palin joins other candidates on stage during a forum for U.S. House candidates at the Alaska Oil and Gas Association annual conference at the Dena'ina Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. Democrat Mary Peltola, right, won the special election for Alaska’s only U.S. House seat on Wednesday, besting a field that included Palin, who was seeking a political comeback in the state where she was once governor. Credit: Marc Lester / AP

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will not be going to Congress — at least not yet.

The Republican lost to Mary Peltola after a ranked-choice retabulation of this month’s special election for the 49th state’s only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She was the first Democrat elected to the seat since 1972 in a state with a strong Republican lean.

The race was the debut of Alaska’s new voting system, which began with a crowded primary in which the top four finishers advanced. A Democrat withdrew after that, helping put Peltola on top in the first round of voting last month.

Once the second choices of voters who backed third-place finisher Nick Begich were considered on Wednesday, Peltola nipped Palin with 51.5 percent of votes. While the Democrat will head to Congress for the rest of the year, the three will be on the ballot again for a full term in November.

The same three candidates will face off in a November election to win the seat in their own right. But it is a result that may further criticism of the new voting system. Former President Donald Trump bashed the system while campaigning for Palin in Alaska and the candidate herself called it “convoluted,” although Republicans in the state have had marked differences in strategy with some arguing for the need to play to second-choice voters.

Sounds familiar, no? Maine became the first state to adopt ranked-choice voting in 2016 and it now applies to state and federal primaries plus general elections for Congress and president. In our first foray, Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, ousted former Rep. Bruce Poliquin despite the Republican holding a narrow lead in the first round of voting.

Golden’s victory was both predicted and straightforward. There were two liberal-leaning independents in the race and voters who picked them first leaned heavily toward the Democrat in the second slot on their ballot. During the primaries that year, the Maine Republican Party campaigned against the method by urging members to rank only one choice.

Although we cannot know what a plurality rerun would have looked like, that election locked in Republican antipathy toward ranked-choice voting in Maine. Poliquin sued the state to stop the ranked-choice count, kicking off a legal battle that he lost at every turn. Still, the election was under protest until Poliquin withdrew his lawsuit on Christmas Eve. Then-Gov. Paul LePage begrudgingly certified the results, writing “stolen election” on the sheet.

Ranked-choice voting has since been expanded to Maine presidential elections by the Democratic-leaning Legislature, moved to Alaska in a partial bid to shield moderate Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican who has drawn Trump’s ire, from a conservative challenge. Voters in Nevada looks poised to implement its own system this year.

The system has proven popular enough to advance in these diverse places so far. While some in Alaska are saying they want to at least partially repeal it, it is protected for two years by a constitutional provision barring lawmakers from changing it. In Maine, Republicans would need to win both the Legislature and Blaine House to erode the system, though any effort would have to overcome a people’s veto.

For now, ranked-choice voting looks to be here to stay.

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...