Ranked choice tale of two cities

Ranked-choice voting in the Twin Cities is often referred to as an "instant runoff system." But as you may remember from past elections, getting final results is anything but instant. As John Croman reports, Minneapolis is promising faster results this ti

MINNEAPOLIS -- The ranked choice instant runoff tabulations should go faster this year in Minneapolis, compared to 2013, but in St. Paul the process of elimination may take several days.

Both cities will be able to tell us on Election Night how the mayoral candidates did in terms of first-choice votes, and if any can capture more than 50 percent of those first-choice votes the election is over. That's not likely, however, given how competitive the mayoral races are in both towns.

So, they'll begin the process of eliminating candidates from the bottom of the stack, and reallocating their ballots to other candidates based on their supporters' second and third choices.

In Minneapolis that process will be computer-assisted and begin on Wednesday morning after the election.

"In 2013, it took us three days but we're hoping it's going to take us one day this year to finish all the results," Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl told KARE.

"We have the new tabulation equipment, which gives us all the data results across all the ballots, and we’re going to do batch elimination this year, which mean we’ll be eliminating more than one candidate in each round of tabulation."

It will also help that there are only 16 candidates in the Minneapolis mayor's race this year, as opposed to 35 candidates in 2013.  That year Betsy Hodges was ahead in the first-choice tally by 11,000 votes on Election Night, but it took 33 rounds of tabulations spread over three days before she crossed the threshold to be declared the winner.

St. Paul by hand

In St. Paul, on the other hand, the process of reassigning ballots will be handled more like a recount. It will be done manually in an open room with observers watching for human errors. In St. Paul voters can rank up to six candidates in each race.

Ramsey County Elections Director Joe Mansky said the tabulation process will begin Thursday at 8:30 a.m., and should wrap up by late Saturday afternoon or early that evening.

Mansky said it's important that the candidates and public get to see the ballot redistribution process because they're being physically touched by elections workers. He also pointed out that the manual process isn't susceptible to computer hacking.

Jeanne Massey of Fair Vote Minnesota, which campaigned for the ranked choice system, said St. Paul is trying to reinforce voter confidence with its deliberate process.

"Both cities have new equipment, relatively speaking, and they can read a ranked ballot and create a cast ballot record of those rankings," Massey said.

"So they’ll stack up the ballots, take the smallest pile, eliminate that candidate, and then literally reallocate those ballots to the remaining stacks on the table."

Massey asserted that, despite the delays, most voters still like ranked choice system that combines the primary election and general election into one voting event.

"I really want to urge all voters to rank your ballots," Massey remarked. "If you don’t rank your ballot and your favorite candidate is eliminated, your vote will not have any more influence."

© 2017 KARE-TV


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