June 7, 2006—Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Minneapolis Charter Commission this evening failed to recommend the IRV charter amendment on a 6-7 vote. The amendment now goes back to the city council to write the language to appear on the ballot. But it will make that journey without the charter commission’s approval.
Of the three pathways a charter amendment can take to get to the ballot, the charter commission’s role is binding in only one—an action of its own accord to put a measure before the voters. In the other two methods—citizen petition and city council recommendation—the charter commission’s role is limited to review and proposing substitutions.
During discussion, Charter Commission Chairman Jim Bernstein displayed his self-acknowledged long-time opposition to Instant Runoff Voting by reading off a long list of ranked ballot voting methods and claiming that any of those other methods could be used under the terms of the charter amendment and that the proposal was pushed through in an inappropriately short amount of time. “This was entirely disingenuous of Chairman Bernstein,” said Better Ballot Campaign Coordinator Jeanne Massey. “He’s had plenty of education on the subject going back several years and knows better than to make such fallacious claims.” Better Ballot Campaign organizers made a presentation on their proposal to the charter commission in May 2005. Bernstein chaired that meeting as well.
City staff responded on cue from Bernstein, reiterating warnings they reported last month to the city council that costs of implementing the new voting method would be steep and that there would not be any net savings from eliminating the primary election. FairVote Minnesota President Tony Solgård, who rebutted staff claims in his own memo to the city council, expressed disappointment in the lack of progress in working with city staff. “Last month, we met with staff, and they came to agree with us that the real answer to cost questions is that they can’t be predicted with any certainty and that the campaign’s scenario for how IRV could be implemented without significant cost or disruption may very well come to pass. Unfortunately, they appear to have gone back on that agreement and are still singing the same tune.”
Commissioner Barry Lazarus resurrected Brown v. Smallwood, a 1915 Minnesota Supreme Court case, to support claims of unconstitutionality. Former charter commission member Brian Melendez was present to make a spirited rebuttal. In the end, however, the votes were not there to support a recommendation. It is now up to the city council to write the language that will appear on the November ballot.
Voting in favor of recommending the Instant Runoff Voting charter amendment were commission members John Klassen, Marshall Lichty, Sue Ponsford, Andrea Rubenstein, Ian Stade, and Aaron Street. Voting against the recommendation were commission members Jim Bernstein, Barry Lazarus, Barry Clegg, Corbin Connell, Margaret Dolan, Jana Metge, and Kristy Remme.
Extract from Minnesota Statutes Section 410.12 subdivision 5
“…After reviewing the proposed amendment, the charter commission shall approve or reject the proposed amendment or suggest a substitute amendment. The commission shall promptly notify the council of the action taken. On notification of the charter commission's action, the council may submit to the people, in the same manner as provided in subdivision 4, the amendment originally proposed by it or the substitute amendment proposed by the charter commission…”