Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) is facing backlash this week after claiming that the special election held to replace Republican congressman Don Young was rigged against Sarah Palin.
Despite winning her gubernatorial campaign in 2006 and boasting former US president Donald Trump’s endorsement for this one, Palin lost to Democrat Mary Peltola.
Peltola is the first Alaska Democrat elected to Congress since 2008, and the state’s first Indigenous national legislator.
“Ranked-choice voting is a scam to rig elections,” Cotton complained on Twitter.
“60% of Alaska voters voted for a Republican, but thanks to a convoluted process and ballot exhaustion—which disenfranchises voters—a Democrat ‘won,’” he added.
This was Alaska’s first election using ranked- choice voting, in which voters list candidates in order of preference. If no one wins a first-place majority, the last-place candidate is eliminated and their votes redistributed to the voters’ second choices. The process repeats until one candidate earns a majority.
Cotton's remarks sparked criticism from some voting experts.
“I've reported this tweet for violating Twitter rules about spreading false information about elections,” replied Jennifer N. Victor, a political science professor at George Mason University. “RCV is not a scam, it's a decision rule for elections. It's just as valid and democratic as the majority rule election that elected you. Stop undermining faith in democracy.”
“The new(ish) playbook: blame any election loss on the election being 'rigged.' There’s apparently no such thing as a valid loss if your side didn’t win,” added University of Kentucky law professor Joshua A. Douglas, who specializes in election law and voting rights. “This mentality is a disease on our democracy.”
The Republican senator also faced pushback from some of his GOP colleagues.
"Wrong. Again, Tom. Would love to see your tweet if Palin had won. And exactly how does #RCV 'rig elections', again? Typical BS claptrap and no facts. Defeat. It’s a real thing, Tom," wrote former RNC chairman Michael Steele.
"Ranked choice voting gives all Americans a voice and not the extremes of a party. So you'd be outta luck. No wonder you don’t like it," said Illinois GOP congressman Adam Kinzinger, a member of the Jan. 6 committee.
In the midterm elections, all 435 House seats are up for grabs along with about one-third of the Senate's 100 seats.
Republicans had been widely projected to take control of Congress during the midterms, so Peltola's win is a major upset in favor of the Democrats.
Trump has sought to reaffirm his grip over the Republican Party through selective endorsements of candidates in primary elections, the winners of which will stand in the midterms this November.
The former president's picks, almost all of whom support his unfounded claims of rampant 2020 election fraud, have had mixed success in the Republican primaries.
With additional reporting by AFP
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