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MINNEAPOLIS -- Advocates of ranked choice voting defended the system Wednesday night, as some observers grew impatient with the slow tabulation of second and third choices.

The so-called "instant runoff" system was not as instantaneous as many observers had expected.Evenfrontrunner Betsy Hodges' campaign staff expected a faster resolution, scheduling a "results viewing party" beginning at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday.

But RCV supporterssaid the delay in declaring an official winner was more a function of the sheer number of candidates on the 2013 ballot, 35 in all.

"Every round of counting appears to be taking roughly a half an hour, and if we just had ten or fewer candidates we'd be seeing that process move forward much more quickly," Jeanne Massey, executive director of FairVote MN told KARE.

"We'd be talking about just a set of hours, rather than a whole daylong process."

Massey said she was encouraged by a vote of the city's charter commission Wednesday to raise the filing fee for candidates from $20 to $500, or 500 signatures on a petition. If that change is approved by voters it would weed out many of those who don't intend to mount serious campaigns.

City Council Member Betsy Hodges led her closest competitor, Mark Andrew,by 11 percentage points in the first choice balloting. She was already the presumed winner even beforeAndrew conceded Wednesday night and congratulated Hodges on her victory.

But in the ranked choice system Hodges won't officially be the winner until she gets 50 percent plus one vote. Even if she doesn't reach that threshold, she'll be declared the winner if she's stillahead when there are only two candidate left in the tabulation process.

Whenvote tabulators broke off for the nightWednesday they had gone through 14 rounds of calculations. They had mathematicallyeliminated 12 of the 35 candidates.

Those eliminated candidates' votes werereassigned to others based on second and third choices theirsupporters markedon their ballots. That process will continue until a winner is declared.

The tabulators are using Microsoft Excel software to reshuffle the deck, manually redistributing the votes based on second and third preferences.

The results of each round are released on the city's election website and inpersonin the City Hall atrium.

The software that would allow instantaneous tabulations and redistribution of ranked choice votes is available but none has been certified yet by the federal government for use in Minneapolis, according to Massey.

She said even the Excel Spreadsheet method is a big improvement over the system used in 2009, when the reallocation of votes was done by hand and took weeks in the case of one city park board race.

"So todaythere's just a longer process than a lot of people anticipated, but still it's very fast compared to where it was before," Massey said.

More than 75 percent of those who voted in Tuesday's municipal elections in Minneapolis actually listed second and third choices.Massey said that's a sign that voters are comfortable with the system.

The instant runoff systemallows cities to skip the August primary, and essentially combine the primary and the general election into one event.

The advantage is that morevoters are involved in the process of narrowing down the candidates,Masseysaid.

"In a typicalAugust primary you'll have ten percent turnout or even less, and that small group of people choosing the candidates don't represent a very bigsegment of thepeople in the community."

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