It is unfortunate that our Republican colleague Annette Meeks and the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota are leading an effort here in Minnesota and across the country to attack ranked-choice voting, a pro-voter reform with enormous potential to fix our broken political institutions and to create a more representative democracy (“Minneapolis is adrift, and ranked-choice voting is the culprit,” StarTribune.com., Aug. 10). Ranked-choice voting (RCV) is a simple change to the ballot that allows voters to rank their preferences. The rankings are used to conduct a virtual runoff to ensure elected officials earn broad majority support.
We know that our political system isn’t working. There is nothing normal about what is taking place in Washington, D.C., today, and it is taking a toll on our state and local governments. Americans are frustrated by our polarized politics. They see this on a daily basis in the inept, uncoordinated response to the pandemic, the failure to take bold action to redress systemic racism, and the daily negative partisanship at the state and federal levels.
As Minnesotans, we are keenly aware of our patriotic duty to make a more perfect union. We have led on women’s rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and we can lead on electoral reform. RCV holds the potential to improve the functioning of our government, create a more racially inclusive democracy, and make our state and nation a better place for our children and grandchildren.
RCV restores majority rule and ensures that candidates opposed by a majority of voters can’t win. Opponents like Meeks are arguing in favor of our current system in which unpopular, divisive candidates can win with just their base voters — even if a majority of voters would have preferred another candidate. No democracy should allow that to happen. Our elected leaders should be required to earn the support of more than 50% of voters and build majority coalitions to win and to govern. RCV does just that and, accordingly, incentivizes compromise and collaborative problem-solving on issues that matter to the majority of voters.
Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis Park and cities across the country have successfully implemented RCV. In the past two years, the Democratic-controlled legislature in Virginia and the Republican-controlled legislature in Utah expanded ranked-choice voting for local elections because they saw the tremendous potential for improving local elections. RCV data in big cities and small cities, and in blue states and in red states, reveal that the system is cost-effective, fair and easy to use for voters of all ages, backgrounds, incomes groups and political stripes. Contrary to Meeks’ claims, RCV is fostering more diverse and competitive elections, greater voter participation, and more civil campaigns.
With a history going back over 100 years, ranked-choice voting has been used in major democracies around the world, in Southern states for military and overseas voters, and in nearly 20 cities across the country. Maine became the first state to use RCV for state and federal elections and will use RCV for the presidential election this November.
Given the success of RCV, it is not surprising that it is expanding across Minnesota and around the nation. It is on the ballot in several cities this November and in four states — Alaska, Massachusetts, Arkansas and North Dakota. It is a reform promoted by business leaders and democracy experts. Indeed, the bipartisan Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, a project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, recently recommended RCV as a critical voting reform.
We have the power to change the way that we elect our leaders. We have a responsibility to vote and to strengthen our democracy for future generations of Minnesotans and Americans. Ranked-choice voting is the change we need to give voters more power and restore their faith in our democracy.
We hope you will join us in rejecting divisive politics and supporting RCV in Bloomington and Minnetonka, and continuing this important and urgent reform for a more inclusive, diverse and responsive democracy statewide.
Dave Durenberger is a former U.S. senator from Minnesota. Steve Elkins, of Bloomington, is a member of the Minnesota House. Kim Nelson and Mike Osterholm are board members of FairVote Minnesota.