League of Women Voters pulled into instant runoff dispute

  • Article by: KEVIN DUCHSCHERE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 30, 2009 - 11:18 PM

A complaint filed Friday in St. Paul alleges false claims by a group that says the League of Women Voters supports the ballot measure.

The League of Women Voters has always claimed to stay above the fray of politics. But on the fractious question of instant runoff voting (IRV), it's getting harder for the group to stay out of the arena.

A group that opposes the IRV ballot measure in St. Paul, the No Bad Ballots Committee, filed a complaint Friday against the St. Paul Better Ballot Campaign alleging that group falsely claims that the league supports the measure.

IRV opponents said that the league has taken no position on the matter and that the Better Ballot Campaign violated Minnesota campaign law for saying it did.

Nonsense, said Better Ballot Campaign officials. They said that the St. Paul and Minnesota League of Women Voters support the instant runoff system, also called ranked-choice voting because it allows voters to choose and rank up to three candidates on a ballot.

True enough, said Keesha Gaskins, Minnesota League of Women Voters executive director. The league does support instant runoff balloting, but it also supports the current plurality voting system. And it never endorses campaigns for anyone or anything, she said.

"It is misleading to say that we support the Better Ballot campaign," Gaskins said. "We do understand that the hair we are trying to split can be challenging. But at the end of the day we are nonpartisan. We do not support campaigns."

The conflict flared Friday, when Chuck Repke of the No Bad Ballot Committee filed an administrative law complaint that Better Ballot officials wrongly claim the league's support on its website and in a piece of campaign literature. He said he has heard league officials disavow taking any position on the issue.

"The League of Women Voters is the Mother Teresa of elections. This is like giving [the IRV] the seal of approval," said Repke, a longtime DFL Party operative and former St. Paul City Council aide.

Jeanne Massey, executive director of FairVote Minnesota, which oversees the Better Ballot Campaign, said that the state league approved instant runoff as a voting option in 2005 and that the St. Paul league voted to support ranked voting in 2007. That's the basis for claiming league's support for the pro-instant-runoff campaign, she said.

Repke said he has asked for an expedited hearing on his complaint, since the election is Tuesday.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

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