FairVote MN Makes Big Strides for Voting Reform in 2014
Coming off an auspicious 2013, in which we paved the way for the triumphant Ranked Choice Voting mayoral and city council election in Minneapolis, FairVote Minnesota started 2014 with a bang. We sustained the excitement of November and continued to build on it throughout the year: sharing the knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm gleaned from Election Day with reform-minded communities across Minnesotaand with the policymakers and opinion makers who have the ability to either hasten the progress RCV can bring, or impede it.
Below are just a few of the successes we celebrated this year in our ongoing work of making elections smarter, fairer, less polarizing and more inclusive:
- On the heels of the 2013 RCV Minneapolis municipal electionin which positive, issue-based campaigning replaced negative attacks; grassroots outreach trumped big spending; both turnout and overall voter participation increased; and voters experienced RCVs appeal and ease of useMinneapolitans began to see the long-term implications of that election. In January the city inaugurated a mayor (Betsy Hodges) who took office with true consensus support, and a gender-balanced city council reflecting this diverse, 21st century city with its first Somali-American, Latina, and Hmong members.
- Despite opposition from political insiders who are invested in the status quo, we continued the steady, painstaking work of advancing our RCV local options billa measure that would give interested local communities the freedom, flexibility and tools to implement RCVin the Minnesota Legislature. While political gamesmanship stranded the bill in the Senate, bipartisan interest in the measure, which simply gives municipalities the local control to try a tested, trusted voting system thats proven its mettle in other cities, continues to grow. Weve seen that the more people know about RCV, the more they like itso given the resources to continue educating elected officials and the public, were optimistic the bill can pass next session.
- This summer, we helped a coalition of citizen leaders, community advocates, elected officials and other civic-minded Northlanders launch the grassroots citywide Ranked Choice Voting campaign in Duluth. Called Rank Your Vote-Duluth, the campaign is building awareness and engagement aimed at bringing RCV before the voters next year. So far over 1,000 Duluth residents have signed on in support, with more joining the cause every week.
- Duluth isnt the only Minnesota city where we helped voters and policymakers explore RCV in 2014: We eagerly accepted invitations to discuss RCV, its many benefits and its implementation to interested groups of citizens and/or government officials in Rochester, Crystal and Brooklyn Park, whose charter commission has recently voted to recommend RCV to the city council. Interest in voting reform continues to intensify in large and medium-sized cities throughout the Twin Cities metro and across the state.
- We took the success story of RCV in Minneapolis and St. Paul to conversations around the country, presenting to diverse audiences across the U.S. Those events ranging from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) conference in Chicago to the VoteRunLead National Go Run training in Minneapolis to the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University.
- We earned loads of positive press, reaching out to our large, varied and growing network of democracy champions to help tell the RCV story in op-eds, commentaries, letters to the editor and more. More than a dozen compelling piecesby political scientists, current and former elected leaders, and other FairVote Minnesota supportersin publications like MinnPost, the Star Tribune, the Duluth News Tribune and others helped heighten understanding of voting reform, why its needed and just how doable it really is. And thanks in no small part to our ongoing media outreach, editors of those publications began weighing in as well.
- Our small staff and energetic volunteer corps had the privilege of talking with Minnesotans at a wide range of community events, affirming that citizens of all interests and inclinations are comfortable within fact preferthe option of ranking their choices in all kinds of situations. From ranking beers at Growler magazines Summer Beer Dabbler to ranking fried snacks at the Minnesota State Fair, we introduced countless voters to the simple, satisfying act of using RCV. We tabled at dozens of annual events across the Twin Cities, including Pride, Open Streets and various neighborhood festivals. Combining education with fun has always been a specialty of FairVote Minnesotas, and while the requests we receive to host RCV mock elections at public events have begun to outpace our capacity to oblige, engaging face-to-face with voters remains a top priority.
- We helped voters disgusted with the negativity of the 2014 election cycle channel their frustration into constructive action. In September we gathered some of Minnesotas leading lights in government, business, the arts and the nonprofit sector for Best of the Worst: Politics on Air, an innovative event to raise awareness and support for Ranked Choice Voting. We showed attendees some of the nastiest political ads of recent history (popcorn included) while increasing understanding and support for RCV. Special guests including Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges helped impart a message of hopefulness: that RCV offers a better way.
- Throughout the year, we dramatically increased our following on social media: Our Facebook followers went from 2,516 to an amazing 5,062, and our Twitter followers went from 350 to 1,131. Ranked Choice Voting fans used social media to learn more about RCV, share RCV information and articles with friends, plug in to advance the cause (in ways ranging from emailing legislators to volunteering at events), and increase support for voting reform within their own networks.
Weve done all this with a small staff, a tight budget and a dedicated volunteer corps. In our ongoing mission to help participatory democracy reach its unfulfilled potential, we consistently make big strides with limited resources; were proud of the breadth and depth of our 2014 achievements.
Were poised to complete some of our major effortspassing the local options bill, enacting RCV in Duluth, ensuring another triumphant RCV election in St. Paulin 2015, while sustaining and expanding others. The ultimate goal, transforming democracy across Minnesota (and beyond!), is ambitious to say the least, but with the help of our visionary foundation alliesincluding the Joyce Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Target, Voqal, the Minneapolis Foundationand hundreds of individuals, we know were up to the task. Your interest and support are essential, and were grateful for both; thanks for all you do to foster a smarter, fairer, more civil and more inclusive politics.