July 25, 2013 (Minneapolis) -- After a successful, widely praised Ranked Choice Voting rollout in 2009, the city of Minneapolis is gearing up for an even better municipal election this yearwith faster tabulation of RCV results.
Thanks in part to the fact that newly procured voting equipment across the metro area is RCV-compatible, an already smooth process is set to become even more seamless. FairVote Minnesota is grateful for city and county election officials ongoing effort to improve the voting experience, and were pleased to work with them on voter outreach and education.
Continued progress is in order, however. We regret that in this years Minneapolis election, technological and technical constraints (not related to the concept of RCV) will prevent voters from being able to rank more than three candidates in any given race.
Other jurisdictions using RCV across the U.S.including St. Paulallow voters to rank more than three candidates, and FairVote Minnesota continues to advocate for a ballot design that allows up to six rankings. (Studies of other cities using RCV show that given the choice, in a race with numerous candidates, voters opt to use more than three rankingsbut few opt to use more than six.)
Data from the Bay Area and Cambridge, Massachusetts, which use Ranked Choice Voting, suggest that in a crowded race, the number of exhausted ballotsballots on which every candidate a voter ranked failed to make it to the final round of countingis significantly higher when voters only have the option of ranking three candidates rather than having sic rankings to use. Currently, eight candidates are vying for the open mayors seat in Minneapolis.
An exhausted ballot is analogous to a voter in a traditional, primary-plus-general-election system (or a general-plus-runoff-election system) only participating in the November general election, thus leaving some of the culling of candidates to a smaller group of voters. In fact, this happens often in traditional voting systems, and its a key reason for unrepresentative election outcomes.
One of RCVs many benefits is that it allows voters to continue to have a say after their top favorites are eliminated, thus ensuring greater participation in the final outcome. While allowing up to three rankings is far superior than allowing voters to vote for just a single candidate under the old systemin fact, a California federal court has ruled as muchto maximize its potential, voters should be able to rank as many candidates as they are likely to use (again, the data show that voters tend not to rank beyond six candidates).
We look forward to working with the city of Minneapolis toward its goal of implementing a ballot design that allows for six rankings. In the meantime, were excited about the citys purchase of new voting equipment that will allow for faster tabulation results in time for this years election.
Most Twin Cities metro countiesincluding Hennepin County, where Minneapolis is locatedrecently replaced aging voting machines that were difficult to maintain and required hand-feeding, one at a time, of absentee ballots. Newer-generation voting equipment is RCV-ready and eliminates the need for hand-counting in RCV races.