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Pioneer Press: "'Instant runoff voting' fares well" at St Paul caucuses

BY TIM NELSON

Pioneer Press, March 7, 2007

Instant runoff voting" made its formal political debut Tuesday night in St. Paul, apparently winning backing in resolutions put to scores of DFL precinct caucuses across the city.

"We're really pleased, but not surprised, at the support," said Gena Berglund, a St. Paul lawyer who is spearheading the effort to put a referendum for the alternative voting system on the ballot this fall.

In the DFL caucuses for the 3rd Ward, where Berglund lives, she said a resolution supporting IRV was introduced in 14 of the ward's 16 precincts and was approved in 13 of them.

At the Republican Party's caucuses at CentralHigh School, 3rd Ward delegates defeated an IRV resolution, though there were only 65 GOP attendees citywide.

Although local elections are nonpartisan, formal support from the city's dominant political party is considered a must-have for any significant political effort.

Supporters say they're moving ahead on two paths.

One is through the formal political apparatus that will include a March 28 policy session before the city's DFL-dominatedCity Council. The council could put the idea on the fall ballot itself.

On the second front, IRV backers were gathering signatures for an initiative effort to put instant runoff voting on the ballot by petition. MoundsParkAcademy student Libby Kantner, one of the original organizers of the effort, left the 1st Ward caucuses with a sheaf of petition forms.
"I just turned 18," she said, "so now I can legally go out and get signatures."
Berglund said she thought her organization had about 500 signatories so far a far cry from the 4,760 that would be required to get on the ballot.

She also said there were debates in a number of caucuses about the merits and difficulties of implementing the plan.

"But I think what we have learned is that people are really hungry for this," Berglund said. "They want change."

In instant runoff voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference first choice, second choice, etc. A candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes is declared the winner. Otherwise, the weakest candidate is eliminated and his or her votes are reallocated to the voters' second choices. This reallocation process continues until one candidate receives a majority of the votes.

If adopted, instant runoff likely would boost the prospects of third-party candidates, since voters could rank them highly while still voting for a major-party contender.

St. Paul / 'Instant runoff voting' fares well

Support runs high at DFL gatherings

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