May 26, 2006--Minneapolis, Minnesota
In a bold step forward for democracy, the Minneapolis City Council today voted to submit to the voters a charter amendment to use Instant Runoff Voting (Single Transferable Vote) for city elections. It will appear as a question on the November 7, 2006 ballot. (Go to council agenda http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/2006-meetings/20060526/Council20060526agendax.asp#TopofPage. Scroll down to Intergovernmental Relations.)
The nearly unanimous (11-1) vote was unexpected and is testimony to the depth and breadth of the educational and organizing effort of the Better Ballot Campaign, backed by a coalition of 40+ community organizations and 40+ elected Minneapolis leaders. A few council members, whose support came unexpectedly, said that while they still had concerns and unanswered questions, the strong grassroots expression of interest motivated them to move the question forward for public debate and a decision by the voters.
Several council members (Scott Benson, Cam Gordon, Elizabeth Glidden, Ralph Remington, Gary Schiff, and Betsy Hodges) sounded recurring themes that Instant Runoff Voting will be more fair, democratic and civil, and will increase voter participation in city elections. Council Member Don Samuels, who represents the city’s 5th Ward, spoke to the need to find powerful ways to engage the community in civic affairs to stop gangs and drugs from taking over our communities. He said Instant Runoff Voting would help accomplish that.
The lone dissenter (Council Member Barb Johnson) did not speak in opposition to the proposed ranked ballot voting method, but rather cited her doubts about the proposal's legality and potential costs. The campaign has presented substantive legal research backing up its proposal and addressed cost concerns with a clause in the amendment allowing the council to delay implementation for one cycle if necessary due to obstacles such as difficulty of acquiring upgraded voting equipment. Better Ballot Campaign lead organizer Jeanne Massey said, “We’re thrilled with today’s action by the council and look forward to bringing to the voters this proposal for improving our democracy.”
Mayor R.T. Rybak was also on hand to voice his support. He said he was initially skeptical, but was now convinced that Instant Runoff Voting is something we need to do to fix our broken elections. He said the city was showing leadership on an issue that Congress should be working on. He urged organizations, specifically calling out the Democratic Party, to use Instant Runoff Voting in their internal elections.