What Voters Have to Say About the 2017 Elections
The 2017 elections represent the third use of RCV in Minneapolis and the fourth use in St. Paul. With two highly competitive mayoral elections, an open at-large Park Board election and several open and challenged council seats, these elections were by far the most competitive and robust overall. They provided a great number of lessons and opportunities to build from as we continue to use RCV in the Twin Cities and elsewhere in Minnesota. Here are the key trends and lessons we learned we experienced in 2017.
1. RCV is having a positive impact on voter turnout.
2. RCV fosters greater diversity.
Minneapolis City Council
3. Candidate education is as important as voter education.
4. Going negative hurts the candidates that it intends to help.
5. RCV is changing how campaigns are raising and spending money.
6. With each cycle used, understanding for and support of Ranked Choice Voting is increasing.
7. Endorsing organizations are beginning to rank their endorsements.
As successful as the 2017 RCV elections were, there's still work to be done. We recommend improvements and education in three key areas:
1. Improved ballot design and tabulation capability, including:
More efficient and user-friendly ballot design with more available rankings.
A ballot design and flexible design rules for cities with even-year municipal elections.
Certified RCV tabulation software to provide for accurate, transparent and instant results.
2. Additional education in the following areas:
The use of RCV in the Minneapolis' Park Board at-large race. We saw increased interest in this race this year because it was an open race and was highly competitive, yet there was less familiarity because voters often don't participate in the Park Board elections. As such, there was higher demand than usual for information about how RCV works in the multi-seat races. This area needs expanded education in the next cycle.
More education also is needed in the Somali community, both among candidates and voters, to counter the dynamic among Somali candidates to encourage bullet voting. This tactic is harmful to candidates and voters alike and it's important to address it before the next election cycle.
This year we began to work more closely with endorsing organizations to provide education on how to conduct ranked endorsements, and more organizations did rank their endorsements. But more education is needed to continue to promote greater use of ranking among endorsing organizations.
Last, but not least, education is needed among Independent Expenditures groups on the harmful impact of negative attacks and how to effectively advocate on behalf of their candidates.
3. Further research relating to campaign finance and campaign practices:
As noted previously, we believe more research is needed in the area of campaign finance under RCV to better understand how and how much money is raised and spent, and the impact of PACs in influencing the outcome of elections.
While candidates were effective overall in differentiating themselves without resorting to negative tactics, we are still hearing from candidates and campaign staff that it is challenging and not always clear how to most effectively differentiate without alienating voters. More study would be helpful to identify successful campaign messaging under RCV; in particular, how candidates can effectively differentiate themselves from other candidates without engaging in negative tactics that can be harmful to their campaigns.
We will continue to conduct exit polls for each election to compare voter experience with RCV over time.
The 2017 municipal elections in Minneapolis and Saint Paul greatly exceeded the expectations of Ranked Choice Voting advocates. The elections showed the power of RCV to create a more inclusive, participatory and representative democracy. With stronger than expected voter participation, high levels of ranking among voters of all ages, ethnicities, income and education levels, and a nearly 100 percent valid ballot rate, voters in both cities demonstrated that they understood RCV, they liked it and -- based on consistent exit polls interviews -- they want to continue using it. These trends have become more pronounced with each consecutive election in which RCV is used.
Moreover, the campaign seasons in both cities were notable for their lack of vitriol and “mudslinging,” with a few limited attempts at sullying a mayoral candidate in Saint Paul and council candidates in Minneapolis backfiring and harming the candidates these efforts were intended to help.
The other positive result of these elections were the outcomes: more diverse leadership than ever before, including the re-election of the city’s first Somali-American and Latina members and two transgender council members, both of whom are people of color. In Saint Paul, the first African-American mayoral candidate, Melvin Carter, was elected with a 51 percent majority in the first round. But RCV didn’t just foster a more diverse set of winners. By opening and leveling the playing field, RCV elections make it possible for more, and more diverse, candidates to run and to help shape the conversation about the future of their cities.
Despite the increasingly hollow claims of RCV detractors, Ranked Choice Voting has been decisively proven to be an easy, fair and preferred method of choosing leaders by a broad swath of the Twin Cities' electorate in the Twin Cities. Not surprisingly, cities from Saint Louis Park to Rochester now are pursuing a switch to RCV.
A quick glance at the 2017 elections results reveals:
The Bottom Line:
The 2017 municipal elections in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul proved once again that voters:
In 2017, we embarked on an ambitious education campaign to ensure all voters were prepared to rank their ballots on Election Day, November 7, and that all campaigns were prepared to run effective coalition-building campaigns. We know that the more voters hear about RCV, the more they understand and like it, and the more they rank their ballots. Our message to voters was simple: The more you rank, the more powerful your ballot becomes. That message resonated with voters and on Election Day, 87 percent of Minneapolis Voters and 86 percent of St. Paul voters ranked their ballots. Moreover, 92 percent of Minneapolis voters and 83 percent of St. Paul voters found RCV easy to use. This is compelling proof that our comprehensive voter education efforts worked.
For candidates, our training focused on how to build a large core base of supporters, and then ask for second and third choice support. Again, the success of this training was seen on Election Day. Nearly all candidates had strategies that included reaching voters for second and third choice support and the high percentage of voters ranking reflected their strong efforts.
The RankYourVote.org website was the go-to site for information about the 2017 Ranked Choice Voting elections, candidates running for office, and tips and tools for voters, candidates, the media and the general public.
The success of our education efforts was made possible by our #RankYourVote staff team and hundreds of volunteers.
By every measure, Ranked Choice Voting earned voters’ support in the recent Minneapolis municipal election. The numbers tell the story and detail how RCV overwhelmingly met voters’ expectations.
|Race||Ranked 2||Ranked 3|
|Park Board At-Large||78%||64%|
|Ward 1 City Council||72%||41%|
|Ward 3 City Council||80%||55%|
|Ward 4 City Council||70%||50%|
|Ward 11 City Council||78%||53%|
|Ward||2013 Council Votes||2017 Council Votes||Increase|
Prepared by FairVote Minnesota Foundation, January 2017
By every measure, Ranked Choice Voting earned voters’ support in the 2017 Saint Paul municipal election. The numbers tell the story and detail how RCV overwhelmingly met voters’ expectations.
Prepared by FairVote Minnesota Foundation, December 2017
Note: This section is in progress, with Minneapolis Park Board at-large and district races, and Board of Estimate and Taxation races, to be added. Visit the Minneapolis Elections website for additional information presentations of the election results for each race: http://vote.minneapolismn.gov/results/2017/