We read, with great interest, the MinnPost story on the legislative attempt to remove ranked-choice voting (RCV) as a legitimate ballot participatory option for Minnesotans by a bipartisan group of legislators (House File 3690 and Senate File 3325). Since the article was published, DFL legislative support has been withdrawn, removing the bipartisan tag.
Two statements by state Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch, were the most troubling. First, “It just doesn’t seem natural, and we have an established elections process that has worked well for more than 100 years.” If the senator were to look back at the last 100 years of voting history he would actually find extensive reforms, including the direct election of U.S. senators by voters rather than state Legislature appointments, as well as voting rights granted to women, residents of Washington, D.C., and service members serving abroad. Certainly, some of our elected leaders during any of those reforms thought them to be unnatural.
Next, “Every vote should count, and every vote should be as simple as ‘I picked my top candidate. …” Of course, political parties are happiest when the choice is between a Democrat and a Republican. The system benefits them alone. Facing declining party identification, our political parties will do everything within their power to protect themselves. What they do not wish to discuss is the ever-present dark money that whips up a fear of each other’s candidates to the point that voters are disappearing rather than participating. Their ideal scenario is to remove independents from the Election Day equation. Additionally, the integrity and security of RCV tabulation systems adds a layer of protection against cyberattacks.
In large part because voters had diverse choices and felt empowered by RCV, last November Minneapolis and St. Paul witnessed the highest voter turnouts in 20 years. If their “top choice” is not elected but the candidate for whom they cast a second-choice selection does win office then you attain buy-in and more voters are invested in the success of the winning candidate. It’s a huge first step toward creating constructive solutions and loyal opposition rather than the intransigence we see from both parties today.
A few last thoughts for Koran: RCV statewide would ultimately create a more representative government inclusive of both political parties and independents. Republicans recognized this need for inclusiveness when they regained control of Congress in 1919 and passed the constitutional amendment that eventually gave voting rights to women. And these same Republicans believed in a doctrine of local government control. Government is best when closest to its people. We are hopeful there are still legacy Republicans in this state.
Just as our state government is often limited by actions of the federal one, we find a way to work together on better solutions. And these solutions are not ones that remove rights but ones that protect them.
David Durenberger is a former U.S. senator from Minnesota. Stephen Imholte is a member of the board of Fair Vote Minnesota.
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