In “Keep experimenting with ranked voting” (Dec. 7), the Star Tribune Editorial Board reinforms us that Minneapolis and St. Paul are the only two places in Minnesota where this system is being used. Duluth rejected ranked-choice voting (RCV) by 75-25 percent in 2015.
The idea of selecting multiple candidates is inconsistent with the way Minnesotans vote in other elections, sometimes on the same ballot. It creates confusion for seniors, first-time voters, and people who speak English as a second language. It is not worth the cost of buying new voting machines, maintaining them, and conducting repeated education to support this change. RCV resembles a poll test for voters.
The question about RCV does not pertain to the presidential election of 2016, or to the race for governor in 2018, because RCV is only applied at the municipal level. It is unlikely that the Republican-controlled Legislature will change the state system. In fact, unless the Legislature authorizes the secretary of state to certify multi-ballot allocation voting equipment, the newly purchased machines cannot be used.
Maine is indeed doing some things differently. Maine and Nebraska are the only two states that apportion their Electoral College votes by congressional district. There are many different election processes across America. But we are not required to follow poor ideas.
Ranked voting, in practice, has failed to live up to many claims. It is not more inclusive. In fact, in St. Paul, in the two higher minority wards (1 and 2), where it has been applied, voter participation in 2011 and 2015 declined in contested City Council races. This is despite population growth in St. Paul.
Voters will be better informed? False. Why? Because everyone is vying to be the second choice of other candidates’ supporters, candidates tend to do less differentiating. This has reduced the sharing of ideas and has lead to a softening of positions, much to the detriment of the electorate. Defining differences is not automatically negative campaigning. It is, however, informative.
Ranked voting, in practice, has not resulted in a true majority victory. It has been virtually impossible to achieve a majority unless a candidate receives a very high percentage of the vote in the first round. This reflects the reality that many voters either do not participate in ranked voting, or simply “bullet ballot,” voting for only one candidate.
Is RCV fairer? No. It has proved to be a system of academic, and mathematic, elitism. Ranked voting is not even a system embraced by the voters. Observers of St. Paul’s vote counts attest that many voters do not participate in RCV.
The system should be abandoned, and we should return to one person, one vote. It is likely the people who support third-party candidates use ranked voting to the highest degree — and they would vote for a third-party choice no matter what system were in use. Again, costs associated with a system not universally embraced can’t be justified.
Finally, ranked voting is not what its advocates believe it is in their fantasy world. It doesn’t result in the inclusion and advancement of third party interests. Truthfully, it’s nearly surefire incumbency protection. The incumbent is most often the highest vote recipient in the first round, and largely it’s the incumbent who other voters select as their second choice. So, when their first choice is gone, the second choice affirms the incumbent’s re-election.
The system is a social experiment gone awry, and it should end. Elections, especially municipal ones, are the closest to the people. Primaries, which result in two final candidates, are the most effective voting system.
The electorate deserves a simple, unconvoluted system where each person has one precious vote to offer the candidate of her or his choice.
Shawn Towle is executive director of St. Paul Votes Smarter.