News

Better democracy message spreads in Bemidji, Hopkins, MPIRG conference

April 28, 2005

Bemidji hears about prospects for improving city elections

At the invitation of the Bemidji Charter Commission, FairVote Minnesota President Tony Solgard met with area residents from April 10 to 13 and gave several presentations about the prospects for better democracy offered by Instant Runoff Voting. The week included meetings at Headwaters Unitarian Church, Voyageurs Expeditionary High School, and Northwest Technical College. Several Bemidji State University students attended the three public meetings held at city hall. The Bemidji Pioneer carried a front page article which can be viewed at here. An interview with Solgard was broadcast on KAXE Radio in Grand Rapids, an independent public radio station broadcasting over much of northern Minnesota. Bemidji resident Audrey Thayer and Charter Commission Michael Meuers arranged the meetings.

Hopkins Alternative Voting Task Force submits preliminary report
After many substantive meetings, the Hopkins Alternative Voting Task Force decided it needed more time to put together its findings and recommendations. It submitted a preliminary report of its activities at the April 26 Charter Commission meeting and requested authorization to continue working. That authorization was granted and the Task Force will continue its work.

Minnesota Public Interest Research Group holds democracy conference, considers better voting methods
The first Minnesota organization to answer FairVote Minnesota's call for organizations to endorse a move toward better voting methods was Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG). Not only did they adopt a public policy position in favor of Instant Runoff Voting, but they also went to work to adopt it for student government elections at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus. Foot-dragging by opponents led to a constitutional amendment which was approved by an overwhelming margin of students voting on April 14. The following weekend, MPIRG sponsored a pro-democracy conference in Duluth, with headliner speakers Jim Hightower from Texas and Mark Ritchie, President of the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. FairVote Minnesota President Tony Solgard addressed the gathering on Sunday April 24. One of the questions put to Solgard was how can a change in the voting system happen when the odds seem stacked against it. Solgard pointed to MPIRG's campaign to institute Instant Runoff Voting for student elections as a way to infuse American political culture with a working knowledge of a better voting method. Year after year, and as more schools do the same, a new and growing wave of graduates will go out into the voting age population, soon making an alternative seem less foreign and more imaginable.

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