Expert answers ranked-choice voting questions

8:46 PM, Nov 4, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Voters in the Twin Cities will encounter ballots on Tuesday that may leave some shaking their heads.

It is the style of voting called "ranked-choice" or IRV. It is not the first time IRV has been tried in the Twin Cities, nor is it unique in the country.

Jeanne Massey, Executive Director of Fair Vote Minnesota, said there are 11 cities across the nation, from the San Francisco Bay area to Portland, Maine that use the voting style.

"The big benefit ranked-choice voting has is it consolidates two elections in one," said Massey, in response to a question on KARE 11's Facebook page. "It allows us to eliminate the very low turnout, highly unrepresentative primary that was in September, now August, where very few voters would turn out and just leave two choices left for everybody else in the November election. With ranked-choice voting, we combine the two into one and provide more choice on the ballot in November when turnout is much higher and more diverse."

The process involves voters selecting their top three choices for a particular office, ranking them one, two and three. If no candidate gets 50 percent plus one of the votes cast in the election, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and the first place votes of that candidate are distributed to that candidates' voters' second and third choices.

The process continues until there is a candidate who has garnered the required majority of votes.

Voters will see a long mayoral ballot in Minneapolis, which has 35 candidates vying to replace Mayor R.T. Rybak, who elected not to seek re-election.

"We assume, in this competitive mayor's race, that it will go to a runoff eventually and that it will be won with second and third choice votes," said Massey. "Whoever that candidate is who has appealed to the greatest number of voters for second and third choice voters and to that broad majority will be that candidate who wins."

There may be a different time frame for winners in St. Paul and Minneapolis, because of the different approaches of election officials.

"We should know results in the (Minneapolis) mayor's race by the next day," said Massey. "St. Paul has a race there in Ward One and they will be counting those ballots manually the very next week."

Assuming no candidate wins the required majority immediately, Ramsey County elections officials intend to count the choice votes on the following Monday.

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