St. Paul lets voters petition to put a measure on the ballot. This year, the requisite number of voters signed petitions to put Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) on the ballot. The city attorney wants to keep it off, and the city council might just vote to deny the petitioners their chance to bring IRV to a vote. The issue is neatly defined in a Park Bugle article.
Proponents of IRV say it will offer voters more choices and open up races to third parties shut out of the current system, as well as save money by eliminating the need for primaries.
Detractors say voters will only be confused by longer ballots and the need to memorize more candidate choices, and that there’s nothing wrong with electing candidates by a plurality rather than a majority.
Instant-runoff voting lists all candidates on a single ballot and lets voters rank their choices. A voter can rank only a top choice, rank all the choices or stop anywhere in between.
If a candidate gets a simple majority (50 percent plus one) of first-place rankings, then that person is the winner. If no candidate gets a majority, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and that candidate’s votes are reassigned based on those voters’ second choices.
The recounting continues until someone has a majority, hence the term “instant runoff.”
Minneapolis voters passed IRV in 2006, but it has not been implemented yet. Minneapolis is looking for voting machines that can handle the procedure, and responding to a court challenge by Minnesota Voters Alliance.
IRV backers include the Minnesota League of Women Voters, the DFL party, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and a long list of local political figures.
The St. Paul Better Ballot Campaign, which ran the successful petition drive, may sue to have the measure put on the ballot if the city council refuses to do so.
St. Paul city attorney John Choi write an opinion for the city council saying that, based on a 1915 Duluth case, he believes IRV is not constitutional. The Star Tribune reports that six of the seven St. Paul city council members have signed a draft resolution to keep the measure off the ballot. The city council is set to vote on the resolution on July 2. The council meeting is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. at St. Paul City Hall.
What do you think? Weigh in on the question by posting a comment below.