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First Minneapolis, later the state? Court legalizes instant runoff voting

The state Supreme Court resoundingly ruled Minneapolis' instant runoff voting constitutional, removing an obstacle for St. Paul's and Duluth's adoption, AP notes. Strib editorialists, who have long supported IRV, urge the Minneapolis City Council to approve a resolution today confirming the city ready to go this fall. They note this is an experiment, but one that is long overdue. The Strib's Steve Brandt says voter education begins in August and the city hired a veteran Hennepin County official to run things.

More IRV: The PiPress' Dave Orrick and Rachel Stassen-Berger say St. Paul's City Council will likely put the method on the ballot this fall. IRV opponents, spanked twice in court, promise to campaign hard against adoption. If it works locally, the state might adopt it in the post-Pawlenty era. It's actually much better suited to state elections, where fields are smaller after party primaries. The method would ensure a majority winner without a runoff election, though it wouldn't stop recounts. (Disclaimer: I've been an IRV advocate.)


Pharmacists received $3.6 million less in pharmaceutical company largess, the PiPress' Jeremy Olson reports. Last year's total, $13 million, was down from $16.6 million the year before. An endless conflict-of-interest debate at the U has frozen some doctors from taking the corporate inducements. A legislative push to include medical-device makers in the report died this session.

The Strib's Mike Kaszuba says House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher is presiding over meetings where groups are talking lawsuit over Gov. Pawlenty's unallotment, but Kelliher insists she's not pushing for a court fight. DFL leaders, hospitals and cities are kibbitzing.

Related: The Strib's Chen May Yee writes that Regions Hospital is trying to put a human face on Pawlenty's potential $36 million cut for indigent care. A gubernatorial spokesman again says Minnesota's benefits are generous, but the hospital, not the state, could pay for the $150,000 treatment of a 23-year-old mechanic with a brain tumor and no insurance. That's not reform, governor.

Taxophobic GOP businessman Brian Sullivan
, who almost ended the Pawlenty era before it began, won't run in 2010, Stassen-Berger reports. Sullivan's challenge forced Pawlenty to loudly adopt a "no new taxes" pledge in 2002, one reason we're where we are today.

As the H1N1 flu officially goes pandemic globally, Minnesota has had 221 cases and 46 hospitalizations since the outbreaks began, the PiPress' Jeremy Olson notes. The Strib's Maura Lerner says there are 30 new state cases a week. Fox9 has the requisite list of precautions.

After Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak loudly bragged about $5 million in cop money from the Obama administration, the city will only wind up with $3.7 million, the Strib's Steve Brandt reports. In a move unhelpful for gubernatorial ambitions, Rybak tried to get all of Hennepin County's share, but that board wound up splitting it with the 'burbs. Seventeen college-age police support staffers were let go, but it's unclear about other Minneapolis force reductions.

Smart Politics' Eric Ostermeier charts the amazing drop in Minneapolis crime even as unemployment rises. The city's jobless rate, 6.9 percent, is lower than the state or nation, but more than double that of 2000; meanwhile, crime has fallen by a third. Then again, north Minneapolis had another murder last night, WCCO reports. It's the fifth in the city this year, the Strib's Lora Pabst says.

Related: Politics in Minnesota's Steve Perry says the state's unemployment comp fund is getting dangerously low. Like many states, it will borrow money from the feds if the local spigot runs dry, and potentially raise the unemployment-tax rate to compensate.

Fox9's Tom Lyden has a good piece on a north Minneapolis church's descent into foreclosure. "We blew it," says New Salem Baptist Church Rev. Jerry MacAfee. His congregation, which just a few years ago had zero debt, owes $3.4 million after buying a building for a charter school. The state closed the school the next year for management problems. Lyden says New Salem is one of a dozen north-side churches in foreclosure. Who the heck will ever buy them from the bank?

More church foreclosure: MacAfee, a controversial pastor who's often in the headlines alleging police and political discrimination, says he's not as bad as Denny Hecker, and his ministry will continue. By the way, the Strib's Dee DePass says the state revoked Denny Hecker's mortgage license yesterday.

Here's a new one: Swindler's parents plead guilty to helping offspring launder money, the Strib's Dan Browning reports. Nghia Trong Dao and Nguyet Thi Le filed false tax returns to help their daughter, Kalin Dao, strip $10 million from locals. She was abetting a gambling problem; they get from six to 18 months in the pokey.

Flu-reated? WCCO's Bill Hudson says Delta will cut 10 percent of its domestic flights this year, and 15 percent internationally — but none in the Twin Cities. Delta must maintain certain staffing and flight loads as part of state-guaranteed financing deal, but the Pawlenty administration is still waiting for a reply to a data request. H1N1 has helped cut global demand, the airline says.

Although I was really looking forward to seeing Chrissie Hynde at the Minnesota Zoo, the PETA proponent's Pretenders concert will be moved to the Orpheum Aug. 19, the PiPress' Ross Raihala reports. Hynde didn't like the zoo slaughtering farm animals once a summertime exhibit ended.

If you need your fix of auctioneer cadence
, MPR's Dan Gunderson offers an engaging look at the 46th World Livestock Auctioneer Championship, which is in Fergus Falls this weekend.

The PiPress' Chris Hewitt has a fun piece on local musician Mark Mallman, whose sidelight is creating snippets of movie-trailer music for films like "Wall-E" and "Star Trek." There are links to Mallman's all-time favorite music-embedded trailers, but no samples of the work Hewitt writes well about.

The U's sports arenas will be bone-dry next season as President Bob Bruininks banned booze in response to a legislative ultimatum, AP's Brian Bakst reports. Lawmakers said all adults had to get access to liquor, or none would. The Strib's Jenna Ross says Bruininks was not willing to make the U the only Big Ten school with booze in general seating. However, it's a fermented come-down from the Dome, where beer was sold, and could cost revenue from suite sales, where folks will party like Carrie Nation.

Nort spews: The Twins just couldn't bear to win a series on the road, suffering a come-from-ahead loss to Oakland 4-3. The Favre Threat Level is now Yellow (Significant risk of Favre signing) after Brad Childress revealed a phone call to the phlegmatic quarterback last week and said there was no deadline on the signing. The PiPress' Bob Sansevere talks to Wally The Beerman, recovering from a triple bypass.

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Comments (3)

IRV makes great sense for all single office races (e.g., Governor, U.S. Senator, Mayor, and all elected state Cabinet offices). The ranked choice voting encourages positive campaigning on the issues, discourages ad hominem attacks, identifies a candidate who gains acceptance by 50+% of the electorate ahead of any other candidate, and guarantees an equally effective vote for every voter.

IRV's cousin for City Council and multi-member body races is MIRV (multiple instant-runoff voting, also known as single transferable vote (STV)). This has all the advantages of IRV, and diminishes the dead hand of gerrymandering in city council, school board, county commissioner, legislative, and, with national legislation, congressional races. Hopkins, MN had MIRV from 1948 - 1960. It worked. Cambridge, MA has had MIRV since 1941. New York, NY had MIRV in the LaGuardia era (1935 - 1946). The city that never sleeps was never better governed than it was in that era. Ireland and Australia have MIRV.

MIRV would work well for city council, school board, and county commissioner races. It would even work well to pit several incumbent judges and challenges against one another, rather than the system of re-anointment of incumbent judges that is only rarely interrupted by a contested race.

MIRV would work for a unicameral (one-house) legislature with districts comprising five to seven lawmakers, like the Irish Parliament. With five or more representatives in a district, gerrymandering (where officials choose their voters rather than the other, democratic way around) is effectively nullified. The German Parliament system that combines single member, geographically drawn seats with larger districts elected by party lists would also work well, by assuring representation from every corner of the state reflecting the statewide strength of each viable party.

So who opposes MIRV? Democrats and Republicans oppose MIRV, because MIRV, like IRV, breaks up the two-headed, one party state and makes power-sharing with other parties a reality, be they right-wing, left-wing, or wing-nut.

Will they try anything to preserve their duopoly? Yes. In New York, the last MIRV election put 15 Democrats, 3 Republicans, and 5 councilors from various left-wing parties, including 1 American Labor and two Communists, on the City Council. Both Democrats and Republicans united to throw out MIRV to get rid of the third parties -- even though the first non-MIRV, traditional first-past-the-post election cost the Republicans two seats and yielded a 22 Democrats vs. 1 Republican N.Y. City Council.

Cincinnati had MIRV until 1957, and ditched it because of racial hatred. Cincinnati had a city manager and a figurehead Mayor who was the senior city councilor. In 1955, the senior city council was African-American Ted Barry. He was next-in-line for Mayor. Rather than see him as Mayor, the establishment Democrats and Republicans ditched MIRV and vilified Barry, who was clean.

Who will benefit? Most of us who want to exercise control of their lives in the public sphere, and who see no reason to believe that either Democrats or Republicans will respond to people's needs over the seductive call of money and established power. Most of us who want a Governor whose election reflects acceptance by 50+% of the voters. Most of us who believe that one long Senate recount is enough for a lifetime.

Peter J. of Minneapolis

Peter J. Nickitas is a lawyer in private practice in Minneapolis who was a founding board member of the Center for Voting and Democracy, a precursor organization to FairVote Minnesota.

Noting how the rules for absentee balloting tripped up a lot of possible eligible voters in the Mn race for US Senate, I wonder how instant run-off accommodates those who through obligation (military/civilians overseas) or infirmity need an absentee ballot option, and how much more complicated voting becomes?

Simplicity is an important value when presenting choices to we, the people

Here's a response to #2:

If you can count, you can vote. If you vote, you can count.

Will servicemembers understand IRV? Let me tell you a story. During WWII, the U.S. Army occupied an Italian town named Atri. Major R. E. Garrigan, a Cincinnati native served as military mayor. He decided to hold an election to restore civil authority to the town. He held an election using MIRV (multi-member instant runoff voting), the system that Cincinnati used to elect the City Council.

Major Garrigan was not a lawyer, an election clerk, or a civil servant in Cincinnati. He only remembered elections in Cincinnati. Major Garrigan did not speak Italian. Few townfolk knew English.

1,472 people cast votes. Women voted for the first time in the town's history. Only 22 votes were considered spoiled by contradictory marks nullifying the ballot. This spoilage rate of 1.5% compares favorably with all manner of elections.

Major Garrigan found the election a success and a most effective way to gauge the political sentiment of the population, enabling the people to govern themselves and the Army to gather effective intelligence for the purposes of the Occupation and the continuing war against the Axis Powers (Germany and Fascist Italy).

If an Italian town with women who never voted before in their lives could cast MIRV votes in a free, fair election with a 1.5% spoiled ballot rate, after being taught how to vote by a man who spoke no Italian and was never a professional election officer, American GI's can cast absentee IRV ballots. (Besides, these GI's are from Minnesota, where the men are strong, the women are good-looking, and their children are all above average).