Ranked choice voting to allow three choices, for now

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  • May 24, 2013 - 6:19 PM

The Minneapolis City Council approved several changes Friday meant to simplify ranked choice voting in the November election, though it will continue to allow just three choices on the ballot for each municipal office.

A council committee heard testimony Thursday on the possibility of increasing the number of options on the ballot to five or more, which some council members opposed. But when the council voted Friday on other changes to the voting system, the measure drew no further discussion or formal proposal.

“It looks like right now that the majority of the council is comfortable with leaving it the same – three,” said Council Member Gordon, the chair of the elections committee, after the meeting. “I think there might be a small window of opportunity if somebody comes forward with an idea to increase the number.”

He added that there’s also a lot of concern that “we shouldn’t make any changes now – that’s going to appear like we’re somehow trying to influence the results by making the changes.”

Ranked choice voting allows voters to rank their first, second, and third choices for a political office. Those are then taken into account if a candidate does not win more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes, as candidates with the fewest first place votes are eliminated after reach round. While the system was used for the first time in Minneapolis in 2009, this year will be the first competitive test: six candidates are running to replace Mayor R. T. Rybak and four incumbent DFL council members running for reelection did not win the party’s endorsement.

St. Paul allows voters to rank up to six choices, Gordon noted, and he’s hopeful that even if Minneapolis doesn’t do the same this year that the next city election in 2017 will give people more choices.

Changes to the elections ordinance approved Friday allow election night machine counts to be used in cases where the winner can be determined from a count of only the first-choice votes, instead of having a hand count conducted for each race before a winner can be declared. Hand counts will still occur in races in which a winner is not apparent from only the first choice votes.

The revised ordinance also directs write-in candidates seeking an individual vote count to also file with the city at least seven days before an election. An additional change simplifies the process for tabulating results when a ballot is improperly filled out.

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