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Ranked-choice voting should be expanded through collaboration, not prohibited

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  Since the article was published, DFL legislative support has been withdrawn, removing the bipartisan tag.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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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/22/2018 - 10:24 am.


    Basically none of the claims in this piece have been proved or are even provable.

    I guess I should be happy Fairvote isn’t trotting out ouright falsehoods like its claim that RCV produces majority winners.

    • Submitted by Erik Granse on 03/22/2018 - 10:36 pm.

      I don’t understand

      the objection to RCV. I really would like to, but I can’t get my head around it.

      My experience with RCV last November in Minneapolis was pretty great. During the campaign, I received the usual volume of campaign literature, but it was striking how much of it actually discussed policy, and how little of it (i.e., none) attacked other candidates. When I finally went to the polls, I was pretty happy to be able to give my first choice to the persons I thought were best. (The person who was my third choice ended up winning the Mayor’s office.) Ultimately, I’m pretty sure that the winner of each race reflected the broadest possible consensus of voters from a broad pool of candidates, which seems like a better outcome than having the choose between one or two candidates who have been selected by a political party.

      (Conventional wisdom is that if people don’t like a party’s candidate, they should get involved in party politics. That’s always seemed odd to me; why exactly should we abdicate the choice of candidate to yet another layer of politicking instead of interacting with the candidates directly?)

    • Submitted by Mark Ssmson on 03/23/2018 - 06:07 pm.


      So you don’t like RCV, or you are unconvinced of its efficacy. Are you OK with the legislature BANNING it even where mist citizens favor it? Are you comfortable telling Minnesotans that they have no right to the kind of democracy they favor because it threatens the hegemony of two parties?

  2. Submitted by Steve Eiken on 03/22/2018 - 10:20 pm.

    False enthusiasm

    “last November Minneapolis and St. Paul witnessed the highest voter turnouts in 20 years” is just not true. Saint Paul had higher turn out in 2005, the last contested mayoral election.
    Plus, the idea of greater buy-in to the winner has not proven true. For the second straight year, the Minneapolis mayoral winner had a minority of the votes. There were so many candidates no one had more than 50% even when looking at third choices. A minority winner was not possible before RCV, when the cities used an open primary to narrow options to two candidates.

  3. Submitted by Andrea Feshbach on 03/23/2018 - 02:16 pm.

    RCV breaks down with multiple seats

    I can live with the drawbacks of RCV when there will ultimately be one winner, but there seems to be a serious flaw when there are multiple seats involved.

    To create a simple example, suppose there are three open at-large seats, and four candidates. Suppose also that 70% of the voters really like Candidates A, B, and C, but seriously dislike Candidate D, and 30% of the voters really like Candidate D.

    In a non-RCV system, all voters get three votes. A, B, and C each get a majority of votes and win the three seats. This makes sense to me.

    Under RCV, 30% of the people will vote for Candidate D as their first choice. The other 70% of the first-choice votes are (presumably) split among the other three candidates, 26% or 27% each. One of those will be the lowest vote-getter among the first-place votes, and will be knocked out. Lo and behold, Candidate D, reviled by the majority of voters, gets elected. This doesn’t seem right.

    Am I missing something?

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