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Saint Louis Park Becomes Latest U.S. City to Adopt Ranked Choice Voting

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jeanne Massey, FairVote Minnesota Executive Director —  jeanne.massey@fairvotemn.org; 612-850-6897

City Council Voted Unanimously to Approve the Change, Citing Benefits to Local Voters and the Chance to Strengthen Diversity of Elected Official

Saint Louis Park, Minnesota (April 17, 2018)—FairVote Minnesota congratulates the St. Louis Park City Council and Mayor Jake Spano for voting unanimously to adopt Ranked Choice Voting for their municipal elections. 

Consideration of RCV has been under serious discussion in SLP since the city eliminated its local primary elections last April. The mayor and council then asked the Charter Commission to review RCV and make a recommendation on whether or not to adopt it for local general elections. Following several months of study, including a Q&A with an expert panel and a public hearing, the Charter Commission voted favorably on RCV with a 10-2 vote on March 13.

Yesterday’s unanimous vote for RCV among the council and mayor reflected the strong recommendation by the Charter Commission and made clear that city leaders are committed to investing in racial equity, which is part of a broader effort among city officials and staff to make the city and its leadership more welcoming to everyone.

Mayor Spano gave his nod of approval and highlighted one of the most compelling reasons for Ranked Choice Voting: it lowers the barriers to entry for people of color and indigenous people interesting in running. “All the cities that use RCV all have one thing in common: higher percentages of people of color on their city council, reflecting the populations they serve,” he added. “The only way we’ll find out if RCV will help increase the diversity on our City Council is if we try it.”

RCV’s power to foster greater diversity in political leadership was a common theme throughout the public hearing. Recent SLP City Council candidate Zaylore Stout was one of nearly two dozen people who showed up to advocate for RCV prior to the council vote. “RCV helps correct systemic inequalities in our voting system,” he said.

“It shifts the structure of our democracy just enough – it nudges open the door and creates opportunity – and opportunity is how we can counter privilege, work to repair inequity, and build a city that lives up to the sentiment ‘all are welcome here,’” added Allies of St. Louis Park founder Susan Niz.

Secretary of State Steve Simon, an early author of the RCV Local Options bill, also weighed in on the vote, “I'm glad that the leaders of St. Louis Park took the opportunity to consider for themselves if RCV makes sense for their community. Local control over electoral matters is good government, plain and simple, and I’m pleased to see that St. Louis Park exercised its option to engage the community in a conversation about how to best conduct their local elections,” Simon said.

St. Louis Park’s decision is a victory for democracy, for local control and for the voters of St. Louis Park. FairVote Minnesota and the League of Women Voters St. Louis Park partnered to provide education to the public, Charter Commission and City Council during the past year, and both groups are committed to working with the city on a smooth rollout of RCV in 2019.

“We are delighted with the council’s vision and commitment to doing what’s right for everyone in St. Louis Park,” expressed League of Women Voters St. Louis Park President Deb Brinkman.

Comments from city leaders made it clear that their enthusiastic support for RCV was based on careful research, conversations and the calls and testimony from residents. They also acknowledged the endorsement of RCV by the St. Louis Park Human Rights Commission and the League of Women Voters Minnesota and St. Louis Park.

The motion to adopt RCV was led by Council Member Tim Brausen, who said that RCV “is an efficient and fair system for determining elections, our process in reviewing this proposal has been fair and thorough. . . and the citizens I’ve heard from support it by a large majority.” 

At a time when it feels like our democracy is more at risk than in generations, this feels like a “sacred discussion” commented Council Members Anne Mavity and Margaret Rog. “We know that every vote matters and it is distressing when folks feel like it doesn’t and then they don’t vote . . . so anything we can do to get people engaged we should do,” said Mavity. “The case for RCV is airtight,” added Rog. 

And administratively, the “blueprint for carrying out RCV is already in place, which means the city clerk is not starting from scratch. RCV is efficient, cost effective and has worked well in other cities,” shared St. Louis Park former mayor and FairVote Minnesota board member Gail Dorfman.

FairVote Minnesota Executive Director Jeanne Massey noted that St. Louis Park is the second U.S. city to adopt RCV so far this year and other cities are exploring the switch as well. Voters in Amherst, Massachusetts adopted RCV in March, and voters is Santa Clara, California will have the opportunity to vote on RCV this June.

“Given RCV’s proven success in cities across the country, it’s not surprising that there’s growing interest among municipalities to make the switch. Several other Minnesota communities are actively exploring RCV and soon could follow St. Louis Park’s lead. This is an exciting moment for the future of democracy in St. Louis Park, Minnesota and the country.”

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