We’re deeply concerned by the pre-emption bills circulating in the Minnesota House and Senate right now, targeting our communities’ right to employ ranked-choice voting in our local elections. As representatives of communities using or actively considering RCV, we join together in questioning why the Legislature would even consider pre-empting our ability to decide how to best run our local elections. We also are deeply concerned that these bills, if passed, could set a dangerous new precedent in eroding local control.
Joining the ranks of cities around the nation, Minneapolis and St. Paul have demonstrated why RCV is a better way of running our nonpartisan local elections. While local electoral control hardly needs a rationalization, we believe that RCV elections are in the public’s best interest for the following reasons:
• RCV rolls the primary and general election into a single cost-effective election in November, when voter turnout is highest and most diverse. There’s no need for nonpartisan primaries, which typically are plagued by low voter turnout.
• RCV attracts a more diverse field of candidates — both demographically and ideologically — giving all candidates a fair and equal chance.
• RCV encourages candidates to reach beyond their base for second- and third-choice support, fostering more civil campaigns, and ultimately rewarding candidates who capture a majority of support.
• RCV allows voters to vote for a candidate who best represents their values, and if that candidate has little likelihood of success, their vote isn’t “wasted” but counts for their second preference.
• RCV promotes more civil, issue-based campaigning. With RCV, there’s no incentive for tarnishing the image of your opponent. Instead, there’s strong incentive for bridge-building.
Voters have indicated, in poll after poll, that they find RCV simple to use. They like it better than the old system and wish to continue using it. This is reason alone to consider expanding its use.
Communities like St. Louis Park and Rochester are impressed with the progress Minneapolis and St. Paul have made and are working now to replicate it. We’re also confident that as more voters in other Minnesota cities learn about RCV, many more municipalities will adopt it.
This will only happen, of course, if the Minnesota Legislature respects the hard work, thoughtfulness and autonomy of our communities. A good start would be withdrawal of the anti-RCV, anti-local government legislation and instead working to help pass the bipartisan RCV local-options bill to ensure that not only home-rule cities like ours, but every community in our state, has the opportunity to decide how to run their local elections.
Amy Brendmoen is president of the St. Paul City Council. Lisa Bender is president of the Minneapolis City Council. Michael Wojcik is a member of the Rochester City Council. Sue Sanger, now retired, is a former member of the St. Louis Park City Council. There’ll be a hearing on the legislation before the Senate Committee on State Government Finance and Policy and Elections at 1 p.m. Tuesday in Room 1200 of the Minnesota Senate Building.