It’s beginning to look like Minneapolis will get election results in November much more quickly than it did with the debut of ranked-choice voting in 2009.
The necessity to hand-count ballots back then delayed the final results for 17 days. But now emerging election technology is beginning to catch up with the ranking of multiple candidates by voters.
That’s assuming that the new software that’s coming to Minneapolis with Hennepin County’s replacement of aging voting machines wins state approval in time. But Virginia Gelms, the acting election manager for Hennepin County, which is buying new voting equipment, said the new software is on track to use in November.
The new software captures the order in which each ballot has candidates ranked in each race. That makes the sorting of the various combinations, which took days by hand for bigger races in 2009, a snap. The county will give the city a data file in spreadsheet form. That’s where the process will revert to 2009 methods, with the city still needing to tabulate those choices according to the procedures in the ranked-choice voting ordinance.
The number of first- through third-choice votes cast for candidates will still be available on election night, which allows winners to be divined when a candidate tops a majority on first choices alone. But in other races, the city will need to turn to second or third choices of those who voted for eliminated candidates in order to determine the winner.
Grace Wachlarowicz, who directs Minneapolis elections, wasn’t eager to be pinned down on a time frame, saying that’s dependent on turnout. But she hazarded a range of two to four days.
“It’s very good news. It’s what we thought could happen,” said Jeanne Massey, the state’s leading voice for ranked-choice voting, at FairVote Minnesota. She predicted that software to automate the tabulation process will be ready by the 2017 election.
With the sped-up process in sight, we turned to David Wheeler, the Board of Estimate and Taxation hopeful who was the last candidate in the city to get official confirmation of his election in 2009, waiting until Nov. 20. He was pleased, but added: “The case for ranked-choice voting for me is so strong that I don’t mind waiting.”
Photo: Election workers prepare to conduct the 2009 hand count of ballots.