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Running a ranked-choice election off the Star Tribune's mayoral poll

LeftMN
samuels
MinnPost photo by Karen Boros
Don Samuels has reason to smile at the results of the Star Tribune's new poll.

The StarTribune released a poll of the Minneapolis Mayoral race that shows the following:

Pulse Opinion Research (9/15, no trend lines):

1st Choice – Minneapolis Mayor

Dan Cohen (I) 16
Don Samuels (DFL) 16
Stephanie Woodruff (DFL) 5
Cam Winton (I) 9
Jackie Cherryhomes (DFL) 7
Bob Fine (DFL) 1
Betsy Hodges (DFL) 14
Mark Andrew (DFL) 10
Some other candidate 6
Not sure 16
(MoE: ±3.5%)

Yes there are ten different choices, and yes we knew it would be close, but… no one is breaking 20%? Really?

/shrugs

Now, of course, the Minneapolis Mayoral election will not be decided like this, in a big winner take-all free for all. It will be decided through the use of ranked choice voting, or instant run-off voting, or a sans-primary post-normal election, whatever your preferred flavor.

In a ranked choice election what you see above would just be the first round of vote counting. There would still be more rounds of vote counting beyond this one. With 35 candidates in the field, there could be dozens of rounds in November.

If this were the actual election then the candidate with the fewest first place votes would be eliminated and the second place votes of the people who voted for that candidate would be used. The candidate who got the least first place votes in this poll is Bob Fine, so he would be knocked out and people who voted for him first would now have their second place votes counted.

And since the StarTribune was nice enough to ask people whom their second and third place choices are, we can actually run through a mock instant runoff with these numbers. I’ve done just that in the embedded table below.

Using the numbers in this poll to mock an IRV election, Don Samuels defeats Not Sure in the 9th round of run-offing, 54% to 46%, with Dan Cohen finishing in the third position. While it’s certainly surprising (to me at least) that Samuels and Cohen fare this well, it’s the newcomer Not Sure who really stands out.

But seriously, Samuels and Cohen are the big surprises here to me. Not only are they in the lead in overall first place votes, but for both of them they have enough of a presence among second and third choices to remain in the lead through the course of the run-offs.

You’ll notice though that because of ballots being exhausted, Don Samuels 324 votes is only 40% of the original 800 votes. Now, 40% is certainly much closer to 50% than the 16% high that was recorded in the first round, but this illustrates a point I’ve made previously about IRV proponents talking points surrounding this issue.

Despite what IRV proponents may tell you, the fact is that it’s very possible, and has even happened in Minneapolis, for the winner of an IRV election to finish with less than 50% of the overall votes cast. And given the crowded field in this years Mayoral election, that will more than likely happen.

Another thing that is interesting is that the candidates finish exactly in order of their top-line numbers. Don Samuels, Dan Cohen and Not Sure all lead with 16% and those are the top three finishers when second and third choices are considered. It follows from there with Betsy Hodges coming in fourth, Mark Andrews fifth, etc.

***

One problem with this analysis is that Not Sure, the out of nowhere second place finisher, will not have a ballot line in November. Considering the fact that Not Sure was either leading the field or in the top three for every single round of balloting that’s kind of a big deal. Instead of being able to vote for Not Sure in November, people will actually have to make a decision about candidates that are on the ballot. So… here’s those numbers again, but without the presence of Not Sure in the field.

That doesn’t change things, so yea, I did all that work for nothing.

But those Not Sure supporters, at least some of them, will vote for someone other then Not Sure. And given the tightness of the contest, as evidenced by this poll, I would say that this is anyone’s race to win.

This post was written by Tony Petrangelo and originally published on LeftMN. Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyAngelo.

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Comments (2)

I think Don Samuels has shot

The outcomes of ranked-choice voting will be different because most of the candidates have recognized negative campaign tactics could hurt you (they want the second choice votes). Don has general name recognition and hasn't really made anyone angry. In an election with all underdogs, he'll coast to a victory.

Interesting game. "Not Sure"

Interesting game. "Not Sure" may just stay home, of course, especially with 35, not eight candidates to learn about.

The large voter turnout promised by IRV (or RCV) proponents may not happen; we may have a repeat of 2009, when the IRV proponents' excuse for an embarassingly low voter turnout was that "no one" was really running against the incumbent RT Rybak. There will be no excuses in 2013 for a repeat of that low voting number.

Of course, the "Not Sure" voters could always vote for Johnny Depp--oh, sorry! Captain Jack Sparrow, who is running--or one of the other 80% of candidates whom no one is listening to, because they don't have much money behind them.