News

Public Policy Update

Ranked ballot-compatible voting equipment advances at State Capitol

Senate File 290, the Help America Vote Act appropriation bill, was

heard on March 15, 2005, in the State Budget Division of the Senate Finance

Committee. The bill's provision that new voting equipment have the flexibility

to handle ranked ballots used in Instant Runoff Voting came under fire

from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, an anti-abortion group. Senator

Jim Vickerman (DFL-District 22) introduced an amendment to weaken the

provision. Instead of coming with ranked ballot compatibility already

built in, the Vickerman amendment would have the necessary changes made

for a jurisdiction at the time that jurisdiction was authorized to use

a ranked ballot voting method. Republicans on the committee joined with

Vickerman and the amendment passed.

"It's not our first choice," said FairVote Minnesota President Tony

Solgard . "But if this modification makes it possible for Republicans

and pro-life Democrats to vote for it who otherwise wouldn't, then we'll

live with it." The alternative weekly newspaper, City Pages, published

an article on

the subject.

The bill now goes to the full Senate Finance Committee. The Committee's

schedule and membership roster can be found here.

Election security bill passes Senate, awaiting action in House

A new law to audit results of the 2006 elections would be made permanent

under a proposal by Representative Bill Hilty (DFL-District 8A). Hilty

authored the original proposal, passed into law last year. As a result,

following the 2006 elections, precincts around the state will be randomly

selected for an audit of their election results. If problems are found,

the audit will be expanded to larger jurisdictions and could possibly

lead to a statewide recount. If voting equipment was found to be at fault,

the equipment vendors could face penalties (See this link).

The current proposal to lift the sunset provision, Senate File 959, passed

the Senate and is now awaiting action in the House Civil Law and Elections

Committee. The current proposal also clarifies that the audit would only

apply to elections for federal offices, state constitutional offices,

and state legislative offices.

Bemidji, Hopkins, Minneapolis take closer look at advanced voting

methods

Three Minnesota cities are officially considering whether another voting

method could make improvements for city elections. Bemidji Charter

Commission Chairman Michael Meuers invited FairVote Minnesota to make a presentation

before the Commission on February 8, 2005. The Commission decided the topic

merited a broader hearing and will host a series of meetings with various

community organizations. FairVote Minnesota President Tony Solgard

will address these sessions, which will be held the week of April 10, 2005.

Hopkins' Alternative Voting Methods Task Force, led by Fran

Hesch, is coming to the end of its work. Among their recent deliberations

has been the question of whether the proportional representation form

of preferential voting, with its more complex vote counting procedures,

could effectively be implemented in the city. A report of the task force's

findings and recommendations will be prepared and presented to the Charter

Commission in the next few months. FairVote Minnesota board member Robin

Garwood represents the Green Party of Minnesota on the Task Force. President

Tony Solgard and Policy Advocate Bruce Kennedy have served as resources

for the task force.

The Minneapolis City Council will hold a study session on Instant

Runoff Voting on April 22, 2005. FairVote Minnesota has been working

with activist Jeanne Massey and Elections Director Susanne Griffin to

put together a presentation for the session. The session, which begins

sometime after 9:30 AM, will likely be broadcast on local access cable

TV and the city's website.

Star Tribune lauds AU's Carter-Baker election reform project, calls

for consideration of IRV

An editorial in the Star Tribune hails American University's creation of

a bipartisan election reform group to be led by former president Jimmy Carter

and former Secretary of State James Baker. The Star Tribune cites the experience

of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections as causing Americans to lose

faith in the country's election system. The editorial quotes Carter as saying, "We

will try to define an electoral system for the 21st century that will make

Americans proud again."

The three reforms called out by the Star Tribune for consideration

by the Carter-Baker group were 1) replacing the Electoral College with

a direct election of the president 2) using instant runoff voting to

empower voters to vote sincerely without fear of contributing to a spoiled

election, and 3) a national standard for voting equipment, requiring

a paper trail that can be recounted and assures security from tampering.

The article can be viewed here.

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