St. Louis Park is expected to adopt ranked-choice voting for local elections, making the city one of a handful nationally to do so.
The City Council voted unanimously Monday to amend its charter to move to the different method of counting municipal ballots. If council members vote unanimously after a second reading on May 7, ranked-choice voting could become effective in the city by August.
"The only way we're going to find out if it works here is if we're going to try it here," Mayor Jake Spano said before Monday's vote.
The city would become only the third in Minnesota to use ranked-choice voting, after Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the first Minnesota suburb to make the switch. The earliest it could be used would be for municipal elections in November 2019.
Monday's decision could be reversed with a petition signed by at least 2,000 residents opposing ranked-choice voting. The petition would have to be submitted by July 16.
City officials had already taken what many felt was the first step toward ranked-choice voting when they eliminated municipal primary elections last year. Charter Commission members have discussed ranked-choice voting several times since October and officially recommended it last month.
Also known as instant-runoff voting, ranked-choice voting allows voters to cast ballots for more than one candidate and list them in order of preference. Votes are reassigned over several ballots, if necessary, until the candidate with a majority of ballots wins.
Much of the discussion at Monday's meeting centered on how ranked-choice voting could increase diversity in the candidate pool and improve racial representation on the City Council, where all current members are white.
Spano said his vote came down to the effect the voting method could have in creating a council that more closely represents the city's makeup.
"This issue for me is one about this city's position … on this issue of race and having representation at this table that represents our community," he said.
Before their vote, council members took about an hour of public testimony, nearly all of it in support of making the switch.
"If voters realize that whomever is elected will truly win with majority support, I think more voters will participate in the process and more people will run for office," St. Louis Park resident Elaine Savick told the council.
Supporters applauded and exchanged hugs after the vote.
"I'm pleased that St. Louis Park is willing to make an investment in improving electoral reform and improving democracy," said Deb Brinkman, president of the local branch of the League of Women Voters.