Minneapolis voters seemed to adjust to ranked-choice voting with relative ease on Tuesday, even if many didn't use all three choices the new voting method allows.
"They're more prepared than I expected them to be," Luanne Nyberg, chief election judge at King Park in south Minneapolis, said Tuesday morning. Turnout in her precinct was about half that of the last city election in 2005. Only two among the first 55 voters in her precinct made ballot errors. One voter caught her own, the ballot scanner caught the other, and both filled out fresh ballots.
"The voters by and large knew what to do upon entering," said Jeanne Massey, executive director of FairVote Minnesota, which advocated the change in voting approved by Minneapolitans in 2006. City interim election director Patrick O'Connor agreed that the changeover from traditional voting went well.
"I thought it would be more complicated than it was, but it went very smoothly," said Brad Berquist, a 25-year resident, while voting in the Lyn-Lake area. Some voters said that although they adjusted well, they were worried about others.
"There are always going to be people who don't understand 1, 2, 3 and A, B, C," said voter Valerie Powers.
The biggest foul-up of the day may have been that many DFLers didn't get the influential DFL sample ballot that lists endorsees of the city's dominant party. City DFL Chair Dan McConnell said his understanding was that a mailing house delivered the 70,000-copy mailing to Minneapolis postal officials rather than St. Paul, where the state party's mailing permit is.
Many voters didn't seem to be using all of their choice rankings, according to spot checks. "I never got to a third choice," said voter Dale Wiehoff of the King Field neighborhood. "I didn't know the candidates that well." Nevertheless, he said he liked his ranked-choice experience despite arriving at the polls skeptical about it.
Massey said some voters may not have used all their choices because its takes more competitive races to encourage that. She said that if a voter can cast a first ranking for a candidate without misgivings about weakening another candidate, that voter is less likely to use all the available choices. She said she'll look at more competitive races like the Fifth Ward council seat and the at-large Park Board seat to see if more voters hedge their bets with multiple rankings.
O'Connor expressed disappointment over turnout. "It's been very low," he said. "I guess I was hoping more people would want to come out and try [the new voting method]. We sent word to every single household in the city."
But the race for mayor at the top of the ticket, which often determines voter interest, featured 10 challengers who were underfinanced and little-known compared with Mayor R.T. Rybak.
Although voters were set to pick three new council members and settle strong challenges against at least two incumbents, the most heated debate was created by a charter proposal over the future of the Board of Estimate and Taxation.
The hand-counting of votes begins at 11 a.m. today in the city's election warehouse in northeast Minneapolis. All races will be counted by hand to determine the candidate or candidates that make the threshold for election. That's 50 percent plus one vote for single-seat races, and 25 percent plus one vote for citywide park commissioner seats, and 33 percent plus one for Board of Estimate seats.
If a candidate achieves that threshold on first-choice votes, the lower-ranking choices by a voter won't come into play. But if no winner emerges on first choices, the candidates without a chance of winning will be dropped and the second or third choices of people who voted for those candidates will be applied to candidates still in the race.
For multi-seat races, proportional excess votes from candidates who topped the threshold also will be reallocated to remaining viable candidates on the basis of second or third choices.
Staff writers Emily Johns and Bob von Sternberg contributed to this report. Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438