Candidates who won City Council and mayoral races in Minneapolis this week — and some who didn’t — applauded the ranked-choice voting process Thursday, saying it kept campaigns positive and encouraged voter participation.
“Ranked-choice voting is a strong way for us to increase democracy in the city of Minneapolis,” said Jeremiah Ellison, who won a North Side council seat. “I’m really happy to be in a system that allows for everybody to exercise their full right and their full thought as a voter.”
In Minneapolis, ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank three choices for each office on the ballot. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of first-choice votes, then second- and third-choice votes are reallocated to those candidates until one person has a majority.
Minneapolis voters approved the ranked-choice voting system in 2006, and it was first used in 2009. This year, votes were tallied within a day — compared to two weeks in 2009 and three days in 2013 — despite the highest voter turnout in more than 20 years for a municipal election in the city.
More than 100,000 people voted in Minneapolis, and more than 60,000 voted in the St. Paul mayor’s race. St. Paul started using ranked-choice voting in 2011, and allows voters to rank up to six choices for mayor. Former St. Paul Council Member Melvin Carter was elected mayor Tuesday night, garnering a majority of votes in the first round.
“This year demonstrated the power of giving voters more choice in their elections,” said Jeanne Massey, executive director of the ranked-choice voting advocacy group Fair Vote Minnesota.
Multiple people at a news conference Thursday afternoon noted the diverse slate of candidates and winners. St. Paul elected its first black mayor and multiple people of color won seats on the Minneapolis City Council, including two who are transgender.
Mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds, a former law professor and president of the Minneapolis NAACP who finished fifth overall, said ranked-choice voting provides an opportunity to candidates of color. While voters may be hesitant to choose a candidate they think is unlikely to win in a traditional election, she said, ranked choice allows voters “to take a chance on a candidate like me.”
DFL state Rep. Ray Dehn, who also ran for mayor, said ranked-choice voting encouraged candidates to focus on issues rather than on attacking their opponents. Up until the Sunday before Election Day, he said, the top mayoral candidates were engaged in a “huge dialogue” about issues facing the city.
“Without ranked-choice voting, I don’t believe we would’ve had that dialogue,” said Dehn, who came in second overall after picking up reallocated votes as his competitors were eliminated from the race.
Other Minnesota cities, including St. Louis Park and Rochester, are considering adopting ranked-choice voting. Massey said she thinks the system’s success in Minneapolis and St. Paul this week will encourage other cities across the state to follow suit.
“Minneapolis did what we do best, which is democracy at its finest,” Frey said at the news conference, his tone turning wry. “The only thing I would like to change is Melvin Carter was elected as mayor of St. Paul before I was elected mayor of Minneapolis, and I would just like to say very clearly to Melvin that that’s the last time St. Paul will finish ahead of Minneapolis for a long time.”