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Despite two concessions and two victory parties, vote counters slogged away until almost midnight Wednesday with no final results for the Minneapolis mayoral or City Council races in sight.
Meanwhile, the city Charter Commission voted unanimously for a change meant to discourage a repeat of the 35-candidate free-for-all that confronted voters this year. The commission voted to raise the filing fee for mayoral hopefuls from $20 to $500, matching St. Paul’s, where voters chose from a far smaller field of candidates Tuesday.
City workers were conducting a meticulous count throughout the day, going through second- and third-place votes, but had only eliminated 14 candidates, working their way up from the least popular. They will resume counting at 10 a.m. Thursday to finish the mayor’s votes. Then they’ll move on to ballots for the City Council’s Fifth, Ninth and 13th wards, which also await the declaration of official winners.
Roann Cramer, associate chair of the Minneapolis DFL, watched election returns being processed through the fifth round before leaving to attend a party for the presumptive winner of the mayoral race, Betsy Hodges.
People waiting for results in City Hall are “being well-behaved, but they’re like, ‘Oh, my God, this is really slow,’ ” Cramer said.
A tedious process
The city’s ranked-choice voting system and the large number of candidates combined to make for a complicated, tedious process of arriving at final vote totals.
The counting began at noon in an off-limits basement room, with the process shown by a video feed to news media and campaign representatives gathered in the City Hall rotunda.
The tabulation of results is focused on the second or third choices of voters who gave their first choices to candidates who have been ruled out mathematically or later are the lowest candidate as ranked by first-choice voters.
The process will continue until one candidate exceeds the 50 percent threshold or only two candidates remain.
With candidates being eliminated one at a time, the process seemed incredibly slow to some observers.
“Now my own child is e-mailing to ask why we can’t eliminate more than one at a time!” one city elections worker said after 6 p.m.
City Clerk Casey Carl explained it this way: Sometimes the person who appears next lowest in the tally may not be if that person gets enough new votes in the reallocation of a dropped candidate’s tally.
For example, the sixth round dropped Rahn V. Workcuff and reallocated up to 66 votes. But Jimmy Stroud, the next lowest at 68 votes, can’t also be dropped because a lopsided share of Workcuff’s votes could go to Stroud, vaulting him ahead of Edmund Bernard Bruyere, who had 73 votes.
So the process ground on, with one candidate dismissed at a time.
Long list of hopefuls blamed
Jeanne Massey of FairVote Minnesota blamed the lengthy process on the high number of candidates and the need to follow the ordinance that dictates the process.
“The problem began and is now being seen in the long list of candidates,” she said.
Unlike 2009, when the last result didn’t come for two weeks after the election, Carl said all final results are expected by the end of the week, in time for the council to act as the canvassing board on Tuesday and declare them official.
The video feed of the counting, focused on three partially visible computers where the tabulation is done, is available only in the rotunda of City Hall. The 2009 postelection process was accessible to observers at the city’s northeast Minneapolis election warehouse, where ballots were sorted, stacked and counted according to the rankings of up to three candidates. That was repeated for every race without a clear winner.
This year, that part of the process has been automated via an upgrade in voting systems funded by Hennepin County.
What remains consists mainly of election workers cutting and pasting columns of figures, working in teams of two who cross-check their totals.