Read about how the Minneapolis Better Ballot Campaign happened and what it took to win!
On November 7, 2006, Minneapolis voted by nearly 2 to 1 to adopt Instant Runoff Voting for its major municipal elections and proportional voting for the [park board and library board]. Backed by FairVote Minnesota, the Minneapolis Better Ballot Campaign led this successful ballot measure initiative. The campaign was launched in the fall of 2005 following a year of building support for the effort among key elected and community leaders. The first goal of the campaign was to get the charter amendment put on the ballot, which could be done by petition or by approval of the City Council or Charter Commission. Our strategy was to pursue all three routes, ultimately winning City Council support. Leading up to this decision, the campaign accomplished several goals, including:
- Gathering half of the 10,000 signatures required to put a question on the ballot
- Building a coalition among more than 50 civic, political and neighborhood organizations
- Winning Minneapolis Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) endorsement by a vote of 86 percent at the city endorsing convention
- Gaining endorsements from over 60 elected and community leaders and candidates running for office in 2006. Among them were the Mayor and nine City Council members, three County Commissioners, 12 of 17 state legislators representing Minneapolis, and virtually all of the DFL, Independence Party and Green Party candidates running for Governor, Secretary of State, United States Congress, and School Board, including Secretary of State-elect, Mark Ritchie, U.S. Representative-elect, Keith Ellison and State Senator-elect, Patricia Torres Ray.
All of these achievements were important in securing the City Council’s support. The Council took a preliminary vote of 11 to 1 in late May to put the charter amendment on the ballot and a final vote of 12 to 1 in early August, prevailing over the opposition of the Charter Commission.
Following the City Council’s decision to put the charter amendment on the ballot, a general election campaign plan was developed to win “yes” votes from at least 51% of those voting on the question. Based on an analysis of turnout in the previous statewide non presidential election year, we estimated that we needed 78,000 votes to be certain of winning – and the measure ultimately passed with 78,741 votes. The plan included a mix of successful strategies focused on direct voter contact and earned and paid media. It also included taking a poll in late September to assess if the campaign was on track and to target resources the final month of the campaign. The campaign faced no significant opposition once the charter amendment was on the ballot.
Primary activities included:
- Tabling and canvassing at more than 75 community events and targeted weekend locations
- Sending weekly emails to our list of supporters
- Hosting house parties featuring “IRV dessert elections”, which we also conducted at candidate events, neighborhood festivals and National Night Out block parties
- Distributing more than 125,000 pieces of literature city wide through lit dropping and newspaper inserts
- Targeting mailings to 18,000 likely voters who couldn’t be reached through lit dropping
- Producing and disseminating a first-class animated flash video, including airing it several times as an advertisement on cable television
- Planting 750 lawn signs citywide
- Incorporating “Vote YES for Instant Runoff Voting” messages in candidate campaign literature
- Securing placement on the DFL sample ballot
- Gaining Minneapolis Star Tribune endorsement and favorable stories, op-eds and editorials in more than a dozen neighborhood and specialty papers • Obtaining several additional endorsements from elected and community leaders and organizations
- Carrying out GOTV activities the final week of the campaign, including radio and cable TV advertisements, over 4,000 calls, and street canvassing and visibility
The campaign was set up as a ballot measure committee and led by an organizing team and board of advisors. It succeeded with the help of more than 350 volunteers and contributions from moire? than 150 organizational and individual donors. The campaign raised $48,000 in cash and $1,800 in in-kind contributions, while FairVote Minnesota raised $37,000 on behalf of the campaign, including a $27,500 grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation. Nearly a third of campaign resources were allocated to paid staffing and professional services and a quarter to literature printing and other publication costs. Other expenses included mailings, a video, a poll, meetings and events and advertising.