Authored on July 15, 2020

To the Editor:

At the recent Minnetonka Charter Commission meeting to discuss ranked choice voting, the commission reviewed the problems in Minnetonka city elections. These were the same problems we identified two years ago that prompted our advocacy for improving our elections, and resonate with the thousands of residents we’ve spoken with.

1) Low turnout in city council elections (14%), especially in primary elections (4%)

2) Few candidates run, little competition

3) Single day special elections that result in winners with a small share of the vote

Like Minnetonka residents, most of the Charter Commission members agreed that these are significant problems that should be addressed, even if it required spending some money.

What they don’t seem to fully agree on yet is how RCV can help solve these problems, and how they’re connected. RCV is a structural way to address these systemic flaws in our elections in a lasting way.

Eliminating the primary is the first step. They’re time-consuming, costly, and engage only 4% of voters. In fact, Mayor Wiersum spoke in favor of a single election day in November. “It is better for candidates. I don’t know anybody who likes primaries.”

By removing the primary, the commission agreed that the evidence shows that more candidates would run. As Commissioner Sodergren pointed out, it gives new candidates “more time to be able to organize a campaign, get volunteers, raise money, have a strategy.” This is key, because competitive multi-candidate elections will engage more people and will be more likely to attract new voters. Believing that your vote will matter is the biggest contributor to higher voter turnout. Simply publicizing an election isn’t enough - we need choice and competition.

Lastly, RCV will ensure a winner is supported by the broadest number of voters possible in all elections, including our single-day special elections. Isn’t that what democracy is about?

We hope that the Commission will recommend RCV to the city council so the process of adding it to the ballot can be completed. Minnetonka voters deserve to make the final choice in November.

Learn more at RCVMinnetonka.org

Barb Westmoreland and David Haeg