The Ranked Choice Voting Local Options bill had its first 2019 hearing on Wednesday, February 20 with the House Subcommittee on Elections. It was subsequently laid over for inclusion in the Government Operations omnibus bill.
FairVote Minnesota supports passage of modest, sensible, and straightforward legislation that would make Ranked Choice Voting an option for cities that wish to innovate. We are working with legislators to pass our Local Options bill, which will make it easier for efficiency-conscious communities to switch to Ranked Choice Voting if they wish.
- The local options bill would give any city, school district, etc., the right to use RCV if they wish, without having to ask the Legislature permission.
- Voters like it and want to see it expanded.
- RCV gives voters more voice and more choice when they vote. It eliminates the spoiler effect, so we can vote our hearts.
- RCV makes elections more efficient because there is just one election to show up for.
This bill would free statutory jurisdictions to use Ranked Choice Voting if they choose, and allow charter cities to approve RCV by ordinance. It also would establish guidelines to ensure that the next generation of voting equipment is RCV-capable. The bill would impose no mandates and has no effect whatsoever on communities uninterested in pursuing RCV.
In Minnesota, only 15% of our cities have the option to set their own rules for their local elections. The remaining 85% of cities, all townships, all school districts, all soil & water boards, and all counties except Ramsey, would have to ask the Minnesota Legislature for permission to use Ranked Choice Voting for their elections. This is a local control issue.
Sponsored by Representatives Steve Elkins (DFL-Bloomington) and Government Operations committee chair Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley), and co-sponsored by a wide range legislators from across Minnesota, the proposal is modest, sensible, and fair. It supports removing barriers that make electoral innovation difficult for municipalities and cities interested in improving their local voting system. The measure also makes it easier for overseas military voters to cast their ballots.
Rep. Elkins, in his first term in the House, sees RCV as a solution to several problems local jurisdictions are facing in local elections: expensive and low turnout primaries, tactical voting, and lack of diversity of candidates. “Ranked Choice Voting makes elections more efficient for cities to administer and simpler for voters. Use of RCV in cities in Minnesota and elsewhere has shown that it increases voter participation and gives voters more choice. If local jurisdictions believe that RCV would improve their elections, we should provide them with that opportunity. That’s what this bill does.”
Minneapolis and St. Paul use Ranked Choice Voting with tremendous success. St. Louis Park adopted it unanimously in 2018 and will use it for their city elections in 2019. Other charter cities are considering it.
Former bill author Steve Simon continues to champion the bill in his current role as Secretary of State. He described the local options measure as a “Goldilocks option — it’s just right. It’s a compromise that says not that any jurisdiction should have Ranked Choice Voting, but if they want to have it, they shouldn’t have to come on bended knee to ask the legislature to ask special permission... if [a city] wants to experiment with RCV, they ought to do it.”
A companion bill is expected to be introduced soon in the Senate.