If anyone has standing to gripe about ranked choice voting in the Nov. 8 St. Paul city election, it would seem to be Ward 2’s Jim Ivey – and he had no complaints when I caught up with him Tuesday.
Ivey, the Green Party candidate who was eliminated from contention after the first reallocation round of ballot counting Monday, was a big fan of allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference before the election.
He remains so, despite losing to incumbent Dave Thune and falling behind two-time challenger Bill Hosko in the reallocation rounds – even though Ivey had been in second place when voters’ first-place choices were tallied on election night. (To see how the results unfolded, go to: http://www.startribune.com/a811.)
Ranked choice voting, used this year for the first time in the capital city, eliminated the primary election. Ivey argues that’s what gave him a chance.
"I would have been crushed in a primary against two better known candidates," Ivey said. "Ranked choice voting gave me the chance to campaign in September and October, when people actually listen and care about the election….Anybody who thinks ranked choice voting failed me is just looking for something to hang a hat on."
Ranked voting’s critics are going to have a harder time looking for a hook after St. Paul’s positive experience with the new voting method. Little evidence appeared to back critics’ assertions that it would drive down turnout, leave voters hopelessly confused and/or produce an implausible result.
In Ward 2, 70 percent of voters cast a second-choice vote, suggesting widespread voter understanding and use of the new ballot option. Ninety-one percent of all ballots were still in play during the final reallocation round.
That says that the results reflected voters’ sentiments well – better, one might argue, than the plurality-rule elections St. Paul conducted for 160 years.
* * *
Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.