Duluth citizens go to the polls on Nov. 3 to elect city council members and a new mayor. But the hottest race isn’t over a political office. It’s over how future city elections should take place. Duluth voters will decide whether to follow in the footsteps of Minneapolis and St. Paul and adopt ranked-choice voting. Ranked-choice voting lets citizens choose up to three candidates and rank them first, second and third among all the candidates in an election.
“When they go to count the ballots, they count everyone’s first choice ballots first, and if no one gets to 50 percent plus one of the vote, they just eliminate the bottom vote-getter,” Andrew Beeman with the Duluth Better Ballot Campaign explained to a would-be voter at a recent Duluth senior expo. “Everyone whose candidate was eliminated, their vote transfers to whoever they put down as their second choice.” That process, also known as instant-runoff voting, is repeated until one candidate wins a majority.
Backers say it gives voters more options. Critics say the process is too confusing and has never delivered on its promises. Katie Humphrey, who’s managing the campaign for the group FairVote Minnesota, said she became sold on ranked-choice voting while working on past political campaigns.
“The biggest complaint I heard from voters during campaign season was that voters were sick of only having two options,” she said. “They were frustrated that they felt forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, and they wanted more than two choices.”