Try ranked-choice voting before Nov. 5

  • Article by: EDITORIAL BOARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2013 - 9:00 PM

Minneapolis, St. Paul both offer pre-election info on RCV.

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We can’t wait to see if “Chain of Lakes” is Minneapolis mock voters’ favorite, or if second-place votes for “Minnehaha Park & Falls” pull it up from behind and put it on top.

Those parks are among the contenders in a five-candidate mock election that’s being staged from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each weekday this week and next Monday in the Minneapolis City Hall rotunda. Four high schools were also mock election polling places earlier this week.

It’s an amusing exercise with two serious purposes: familiarizing voters with ranked-choice voting — the balloting method that will be used in the Nov. 5 city election — and testing the new RCV-friendly vote-tabulating machines that will be in use throughout Hennepin County this year.

It’s also an underutilized opportunity, judging from the skimpy turnout we witnessed one noon hour this week. In other settings, we’ve heard plenty of questions about RCV, which city voters chose in 2006 to replace conventional one-choice balloting. Participating in the mock election is a good way to get answers while contributing to smoother election administration on Nov. 5.

RCV in Minneapolis allows voters to rank up to three candidates. Those second-place (and potentially third-place) choices will come into play only if a voter’s first-place candidate is defeated. Staffers at the mock election are on hand to explain that and to debunk misconceptions, such as the idea that choosing the same candidate as one’s first, second and third choice bestows an advantage on that candidate. It doesn’t. A candidate who trails the rest of the field in first choices is defeated, no matter how many second-place votes he or she received.

Though RCV was employed in the 2009 election, it didn’t get a good workout. A lopsided mayoral victory by R.T. Rybak made that a low-turnout affair. That won’t be true in Minneapolis this year. Rybak’s retirement attracted 35 candidates to succeed him. In St. Paul, RCV debuted in 2011 and will also be employed this year for the second time.

Whether or not Minneapolis voters turn out for the mock election, they will find it worth their while to bone up on ranked-choice voting before Nov. 5. They’ll find help at the  city's election day Web page. The same holds in St. Paul, where a race between Lake Phalen, Lake Como, Mississippi River and Battle Creek is used to illustrate RCV on the elections website. May the best park win.

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