Authored on December 19, 2020

From the print version of the Republican Eagle / Pierce County Herald

Millions upon millions of dollars are spent on helping voters select the candidate  that best represents their values. Yet, when the ballots are cast, the Minnesota  election system creates results that often works against the voters’ preferences.  Our system, known as “first past the post,” has two serious problems. 

1) The system allows candidates receiving less than 50% of the votes to take  office. When 3 candidates split the vote—lets say A receives 30%, B 30%, and  C 40% and wins with a plurality—then the question should be: What is the  preference of the 60% who did not vote for candidate C? (Examples at Ref. 1  and Ref. 2) This defect destroys the will of the voters. Policy decisions made by  candidate C may be opposite to those preferred by candidates A and/or B.  Democratic fairness is achieved when the winning candidates have support from  more than 50% of the voters. This year, in Congressional District 1, the two  progressive parties received 51.4% split between them. The smaller party  spoiled the election for the larger party. The republican candidate received  48.6%, not a majority, and won. 

2) The Minnesota election system allows members of one party to recruit  someone to run on an opposing party platform in order to split the votes. This  “trick” has been used in close races. It is, apparently, legal—but is it ethical?  This happened this year in Senate District 27 where it succeeded (Ref. 3) and  Congressional District 2 where it failed (Ref. 4). In SD27 the Republican  candidate won without a majority support with the result that the Republican  Party now controls the MN Senate with a one seat majority. Fair? No. Legal?  Apparently yes. Reflecting the will of the voters? No. In our District,  Congressional District 2, the trick did not work but is still sending the winning  candidate to Congress with less than majority support (Ref. 4). 

The solution is proven, elegant and simple: Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)—a  method where you rank your 1st, 2nd, 3rd or more choices. Under RCV no-one  would play spoiler, intentionally or unintentionally. In a three candidate race the 

candidate who comes in third is eliminated and the votes redistributed to the  other two candidates in accordance with the voters’ preferences. This works  whether three, four, or more candidates vie for the votes. I call it Democracy at  work. It is fair to the voters: Their honest preferences are recognized. It is also  fair to the candidates and it upholds democracy rule since no-one can game the  system. 

RCV has been used in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and St. Louis Park for many years.  Voters approved RCV in Minnetonka and Bloomington this year. It is used many  places in the US and around the world. RCV does not favor a party, it favors the  voters intent. It is time for us to implement it state wide for all elections. 

Ref. 1: Minnesota Secretary of State 2008 senate elections 

Ref. 2: Minnesota Secretary of State 2010 gubernatorial elections Ref. 3: https://minnesotareformer.com/2020/06/15/ and 2020/11/05 Ref. 4: https://www.startribune.com/572888651/ 

Dag Knudsen 

Lake City, MN