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Ranked-choice votes on board member released

  • Blog Post by: Steve Brandt
  • November 16, 2013 - 10:55 AM

Things got somewhat heated Tuesday night, when the details of voting for a new school board member weren't immediately released by the board, but there's a bit of a back story.

The board's chair, Alberto Monserrate (right), said only that the winner for the District 3 seat had gotten a majority, without further details.  Monserrate said he was just following the procedure the board used when it voted at the end of 2011 to fill another board vacancy.

That didn't satisfy some partisans favoring Ubah Jama for the latest vacancy, most notably activist Al Flowers Jr.  When Monserrate said details of the vote would be released later, Flowers kept talking, causing Monserrate to declare a 13-minute recess to cool things off. With a crowded meeting agenda, the delay helped to delay the board's ultimate adjournment that evening to 11:30.

That's not unprecedented.  He did the same thing last summer when a group of parents from a charter the district was evicting got overheated at a board meeting.

Although the board usually votes orally, because it was using ranked-choice voting, it used written ballots in which the applicants were ranked were ranked first through fourth. It used the same procedure to name Kim Ellison to fill the last vacancy.

What grated on some was that even partial results of who voted for whom weren't released for almost an hour, and then only via e-mail to two reporters. The full rankings weren't released until a reporter requested them the next day. Monserrate said the rankings could have come out quicker if matters hadn't gotten so tense.

"You learn every time," he said later in the week.  "You learn and adjust." 

The top two candidates for the seat were Mohamud Noor, who got the job on a 5-3 vote, and Ubah Jama.  Noor gave by far the most polished performance at the board's interviews, but may have been hampered by a perception of carpetbagging.  He and his family live in a northeast Minneapolis house, but Noor moved into a room in Cedar-Riverside just soon enough to meet the board's residency requirement for District 3.  He said they plan to buy a home in the Seward neighborhood.

Jama was a sentimental choice as the widow of Hussein Samatar, whose death caused the vacancy, and brought the most supporters to speak for her in the board's comment period. Some saw her as best representing Somali-American women who are single heads of household.

Two board members who favored Jama, Tracine Asberry and Carla Bates, lowballed Noor by giving him a third ranking. One Noor supporter, Kim Ellison, did the same for Jama.

Here are the rankings by board members:  Monserrate: Noor, Jama, Ira Jourdain, Nicque Mabrey; Richard Mammen: Noor, Jama, Mabrey, Jourdain; Rebecca Gagnon: Jama, Noor, Jourdain, Mabrey; Asberry: Jama, Jourdain, Noor, Mabrey; Bates: Jama, Jourdain, Noor, Mabrey; Jenny Arneson: Noor, Jama, Jourdain; Josh Reimnitz: Noor, Jama, Jourdain, Mabrey; Ellison: Noor, Jourdain, Jama, Mabrey.

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