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St. Paul's Dave Thune wins re-election after Ranked Choice vote reallocation

St. Paul City Council Member Dave Thune weathered an extra round of vote counting today, winning re-election to a four-year term under the city's new Ranked Choice voting method.

He'd been ahead on election night, too, with 39 percent of the vote, and would have been declared the winner then if the city hadn't adopted the new voting method that seeks to have elections won by a majority. The new system also eliminates primary elections.

After Monday's runoff, Thune did end up with 2,870 votes in the three rounds of Rank Choice counting, which was 53 percent of the votes cast. Bill Hosko moved up to second in the runoff; he'd been third after Election Night.

Thune didn't attend the run-off counting at the Ramsey County elections office, but was up north at his cabin. I reached him moments after the results came in.

"Is it over? Don't you love ranked voting?" he said. He said he would have been too nervous watching today's hand counts. "Standing around watching people count would be too painful," he said.

Although the Ranked Choice runoff leaves us with the same winner as the traditional method would have, incumbent Thune, the second-place result changed, with Hosko getting enough second-choice votes to move ahead of Green Party candidate Jim Ivey.

It was the city's first experience with Ranked Choice voting, which was approved by voters in 2009. Six of the seven City Council races were decided last Tuesday on Election Night, when the winners commanded 50 percent or more of the vote.

But in Ward 2, the tally of first-choice votes showed Thune leading by 702 votes over Ivey and Hosko a close third. But because Thune didn't reach that magic 50 percent level, the election went to Monday's next rounds.

In the first part of the day-long run-off, Sharon Anderson and Cynthia Schanno, the two candidates with the fewest number of first-choice votes on Election Night, were eliminated and their ballots were checked for second-choice candidates. Those were then reallocated to the three remaining candidates. After those votes were added in, Ivey was third and therefore eliminated, leaving Thune and Hosko in the running.

Ivey's second-choice votes were then allocated and Thune got enough to claim victory.

What's next on Thune's agenda?

"I've got a whole list of things: the downtown Lund's [grocery], Schmidt Brewery, the West Side Flats. And I'm real high on urban gardening now."

After the results were finalized, Joe Mansky, the Ramsey County elections manager who designed and ran the run-off process, said he was very happy with how Ranked Choice voting worked. He said that county workers had run some simulations of the process earlier in the year, printing up practice ballots and running through the hand-counting run-off, to make sure things went smoothly today.

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