Authored on October 21, 2019

RED WING -- Ranked choice voting continues to be a topic of debate among Red Wing residents and City Council members. The council is expected to decide on Monday, Oct. 28, if the topic will be voted up during the November 2020 election. If voters agree, ranked choice voting would go into effect locally in 2022.

The council was originally going to vote Oct. 14 on placing this on the 2020 ballot, but that was delayed to allow a definition to be added to the wording. This came after former Council member Ralph Rauterkus suggested during a hearing that if the council decides to put ranked choice on the ballot, there should be a definition of what ranked choice voting is and looks like.

City attorney Amy Mace told the council: “If you do want to add a definition to the ordinance then I would recommend that you pull back on it now and revise it so that you’ve included that.”

Rauterkus raised other concerns with ranked choice: “I don’t want to see Red Wing as being the first rural community in Minnesota taking up ranked choice voting.”

Council member Kim Beise, the only member who was absent on Sept. 23 when the first vote on moving forward with ranked choice passed 6-0, has some reservations about the voting method. Beise agreed with Rauterkus, wondering why Red Wing needs to be the first rural community to implement ranked choice and then also questioned the process of educating voters.

Council President Dean Hove told the council and those in attendance the he was not going to share his personal views on ranked choice because he doesn’t think that it is relevant.

“My main thing on this has been that it’s being sent to the voters to decide; it’s really not the council that’s deciding,” Hove stated. “The only thing the council really is deciding is to put it on the ballot to let the people decide.”

Before ranked choice would be voted upon in 2020, there are still things that need to be determined, including:

• How many more ballots would need to be ordered than are ordered for current elections?

• How best would the city explain to people how the system works?

• What would the cost of a ranked choice election in Red Wing be?

• How would this affect wait times to vote?

There will also be debates on if a change in the voting system is needed/wanted and how a change could potentially impact election outcomes.

While there are still many things that are not fully known about ranked choice voting, there are things that Red Wing officials do know and that can sometimes appear confusing.

For example, Red Wing plans to only use one ballot, not two — as some people have wondered about — to reduce confusion for voters.

There also has been some contradicting information about what happens to votes for candidates who are not one of the main vote-recipients. No vote is “lost,” if someone votes for a candidate who only receives a small fraction of the total votes, that vote is still counted for that candidate and is recorded as such.

If no candidate wins a majority of votes in the first count (after every first-choice vote is tallied), the candidate who has the fewest number of votes will be eliminated from the race. But that candidate still received X number of votes in the election.

If a voter’s first choice is eliminated, the voter's second choice on the ballot is added to the total for a candidate who remains in the running. This does not mean that a voter has to vote for more than one candidate. If an individual only likes one person running, then the voter doesn't need to rank the other candidates and potentially give them a vote.

Monday's council meeting will start 6 p.m. in City Hall.