St. Paul voters will make history in three weeks when they vote for their favorite candidate in the City Council elections. And some will then vote for their second favorite. And third. Maybe fourth.
Welcome to Ranked Voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting, the new way to count ballots that’s coming to the council elections in St. Paul on Nov. 8.
Advocates say it’s a way to ensure more voter participation and eliminate the need for a primary election. It also means that a candidate who wins in each of the city’s seven wards will have a majority of the votes cast, unlike what we’ve seen in recent Minnesota gubernatorial elections with third-party candidates.
Minneapolis conducted the state’s first municipal Ranked Voting election in 2009, when city council members and park board members and the Board of Estimate and Taxation were elected in a process that took several weeks to complete.
St. Paul officials promise their election will be decided much more quickly, but it still will be almost a week before all the winners likely are known. That’s because those additional rankings must be calculated by hand and, at this point, certified voting machines that will do that automatically aren’t available.
In Minneapolis, the reallocation was too complex. “They used spreadsheets to determine all the possible combinations for each ballot, and that wasn’t intuitive,” said Ramsey County election chief Joe Mansky, who’s handling the St. Paul election logistics. “It was hard to tell what was going on. We want transparency; people will sit at the tables while it’s happening and see everything that’s going on.”
Election chief Joe Mansky
He said: “St. Paul will be faster, simpler, cheaper and more transparent than Minneapolis.”
To be fair, the Minneapolis election was more complex, with more races and at-large seats in some of the races. That meant in many cases each ballot involved several rankings in different kinds of races.