Bill Moyers on ranked voting

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 14, 2011 - 10:44 AM

Veteran commentator says U.S. democracy needs local reform.

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Bill Moyers

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American democracy is “more dysfunctional than I have seen it in my lifetime,” veteran journalist and author Bill Moyers told a St. Paul audience Monday.

But true to the optimistic tone he’s set through a half-century career, Moyers quickly added that “our America remains a place of great promise.”

The evidence he cited was all around him: the crush of 150 people who turned out at a St. Paul home to raise money for FairVote Minnesota, the nonpartisan organization that is spearheading efforts to bring ranked choice voting to Minnesota elections.

Moyers endorsed the voting method that allows for ranking candidates in order of preference when two or more candidates are on the ballot, as happens often in Minnesota’s third-party-friendly system.

Ranked choice voting eliminates low-turnout, highly partisan primaries, he noted, and allows a larger electorate to decide the outcome.

Minneapolis was the first Minnesota city to use ranked choice voting, in 2009. The system will make its debut in St. Paul’s city election this year.

A push is on to bring the vote-by-number method to Duluth and Red Wing, and for the Legislature to issue voluntary guidelines for other communities that want to give it a try.

Don’t look to Washington for reform of the American election system, Moyers said. The nation’s capital too much under the sway of corporate special interests hostile to change.

Rather, Moyers urged, reformers should push for local changes that can bubble up through the federalist system.

“It takes incremental steps,” he said. “Think of what you are doing here locally as part of the long process of democracy that we must take back . . . from the ability of both parties to limit the vote in primaries.”

Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.

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