FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jeanne Massey, FairVote Minnesota Executive Director
Phone: (612) 850-6897
Ranked Choice Voting Wins Again in MSP Elections
Highest Turnout in Two Decades | Ease of Use | Civil and Issue-Oriented Campaigning
MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL | November 10, 2018 - While every election has its winners, one of the biggest winners of Tuesday’s elections in Minneapolis and St. Paul was democracy, thanks to Ranked Choice Voting. With a diverse slate of candidates, issue-focused campaigns, and voter turnout numbers at the highest they have been in more than 20 years, the positive impact of Ranked Choice Voting on the democratic process has never been clearer.
We saw a surge in turnout
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) has been in use in Minneapolis since 2009 and since 2011 in St. Paul. At a time when turnout in municipal elections is trending downward across the nation, we are proud to say that more than 104,000 voters came out to cast a ballot in Minneapolis (nearly 30 percent more than the last election cycle) and more than 61,000 in the St. Paul election (double the mayoral turnout in 2013). It is clear that the implementation of ranked choice voting, which eliminated the costly, low-turnout primary process, enabled the robust competition and real choice made possible by this soar in voter participation.
Once again, voters proved they understood RCV
One of the misplaced concerns about RCV is that voters will not understand the process or the importance of ranking their ballots. Voters across Minneapolis and St. Paul proved this assumption to be incorrect once again. Nearly 90 percent of voters ranked their ballot in the Minneapolis mayoral race, and 75 percent of voters ranked their ballot in the Saint Paul mayoral race. Months of collaborative voter education and outreach between Minneapolis and St. Paul elections staff and FairVote Minnesota staff and volunteers ensured voters went to the polls prepared and motivated to use the full power of their ballot on Tuesday.
“It was exciting to see so many people expressing enthusiasm about ranking,” commented FairVote Minnesota election day volunteer Paul Stearns. “Almost everyone I spoke with said they ranked their ballots.”
Watch these videos of voters' reactions to Ranked Choice Voting on November 7:
While the elections went more smoothly than in previous years, the cities continue to make improvements. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul anticipate having fully automated software and improved ballot design for their next municipal election cycles, providing for even faster election results and greater ease of voter understanding.
RCV diversified the candidate pool
Tuesday’s elections demonstrated the power of giving voters more choice. In both mayoral campaigns and in the Minneapolis city council and park board races, there was a diverse and deep slate of candidates that would not have been possible under the old primary-general election system. The competition fostered engaging, rich, complex, important conversations about the future of our cities across all the races. In the end, RCV resulted in the election of St. Paul’s first African American mayor and the most demographically diverse elected leaders in Minneapolis history.
On Thursday, November 9, FairVote Minnesota and Minneapolis Vice President Elizabeth Glidden were joined by mayor-elect Jacob Frey, mayoral candidates Ray Dehn and Nekima Levy-Pounds and several city council winners at a media briefing at Minneapolis City Hall to highlight the impact of RCV on the campaigns this year.
“Ranked Choice Voting allows those individuals to take a chance on a candidate like me and other candidates of color to say I will vote for this person because my values are aligned with this person,” said Minneapolis Mayoral Candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds.
Minneapolis Mayoral Candidate Raymond Dehn reflected that “With RCV, the voters had the opportunity to really speak. . . . We had a huge dialogue all the way up to Sunday before Election Day. We raised issues around affordable housing, police accountability, and climate justice. Without RCV, we wouldn’t have had that dialogue.”
Being able to vote for your favorite candidate and then your second and third choice is “an enhancement to our democracy, not a hindrance. And I’m proud to have enacted it here,” added Minneapolis Mayor-elect Jacob Frey.
“My favorite thing about Ranked Choice Voting,” said Ward 4 Minneapolis Council Member-elect Phillipe Cunningham, “has been that it's allowed me to build relationships across bases.”
“Ranked Choice Voting is a strong way for us to increase democracy in the city of Minneapolis,” said Ward 5 Minneapolis Council Member-elect Jeremiah Ellison.
Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner-Elect AK Hassan said, “RCV helps candidates like me, as a young person, who wants to do good things, to get elected and be a voice in the City.”
RCV changed how candidates engaged with one another and with voters
All of the candidates in the two mayoral campaigns and council races ran overall civil, issue-oriented campaigns. This approach helped the candidates build broad coalition support and demonstrated the benefit of reaching out for second and third rankings, in addition to first choices. Unfortunately, there were a few outside groups that employed old fashioned negative campaign tactics, but these were quickly rebuffed by candidates and voters alike. We saw that negative campaigning like this always backfires under the Ranked Choice Voting system. This is another benefit of the RCV electoral system, which rewards candidates with positive messages that resonate with a broader audience.
FairVote Minnesota extends its congratulations to Minneapolis mayor-elect Jacob Frey and St. Paul mayor-elect Melvin Carter. Melvin accomplished a stunning outright victory with 51 percent of the vote and Jacob won in round five with 57 percent of ballots active in the final round. Both candidates ran vote-getting, issue-oriented campaigns. That approach helped them to build broad coalition support and demonstrated the benefit of reaching out for second and third choices in addition to first choices.
Ranked Choice Voting is a win for democracy
The outcomes of Tuesday’s elections prove that Ranked Choice Voting works. It fosters healthy competition; enables participation from more – and more diverse – candidates that represent more constituents, which in turn encourages more voters to turnout; diminishes attack campaigning, and eliminates the anti-democratic specters of spoilers and wasted votes.
In fact, under RCV, there are huge incentives to reach out for second and third choices in addition to first choices. This process fosters a significantly more civil and substantive campaign, gives the winner a stronger mandate with which to govern and holds the winner accountable to a much broader constituency.
Tuesday night’s elections saw several races result in majority winners outright, along with a number of races that went into second rounds. The winners in each race won with larger majority of approval by voters than would have been the case under the old first-past-the-post systems.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our city right now,” said Council Member Elizabeth Glidden who helped to pass RCV in Minneapolis. “We had great campaigns and the process worked well and smoothly. I was at the polls on election day and people routinely told me they were ranking their ballots. I’m glad for the success we’ve seen with RCV this election.”
FairVote Minnesota will release further analysis on the impact of RCV on the elections as data becomes available. In addition, FairVote Minnesota is now gearing up to begin a statewide conversation about Ranked Choice Voting. We are hopeful that more Minnesota cities will move to adopt this common-sense electoral reform.