Opposing groups gear up for November ballot issue on IRV voting method in St. Paul

A St. Paul group called No Bad Ballots has formed to opposed ranked voting, or Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) in city elections.

Another group called St. Paul Better Ballot Campaign — which includes many prominent local politicians — strongly supports the voting method.

St. Paul residents will vote on a ballot initiative in November on whether to adopt the voting method, which will be used for the first time this fall in Minneapolis.

The No Bad Ballots members say they are “a volunteer organization dedicated to making sure our election process is open and effective. Instant run-off voting will confuse voters, encourage more negative campaigning, and cost the city money at at time when we cannot afford it.”

They add:

“St. Paul residents actively participate in a vibrant election process that allows everyone the ability to have their voice heard. Instant run-off voting will silence the voices of residents [whose] votes will not be counted. IRV is wrong for St. Paul and together we can make sure our community does not make the same mistake that other cities now regret.”

The group is led by veteran city politicos Chuck Repke and Angie Kline. They say the method has many flaws:

“Instant Run off Voting is a confusing, expensive, and complicated voting system that if passed would do nothing to improve elections in Saint Paul. Free and fair elections are the hallmark of any democracy and voters need to know that their votes count and that voting for their candidate to win can only help that candidate, not hurt them.”

The group supporting IRV, which includes dozens of current and former city elected officials, says this is why it’s needed:

“Under our current system for city elections voters are asked to make two trips to the polls — once in September and again in November. The problem is that very few voters turn out to vote in the September primary — often fewer than half the number of voters who turn out for the November election. Under IRV, we accomplish in one election what is now accomplished in two, with a single election in November, when turnout is highest and most diverse.

“IRV accomplishes the purpose of a two-round system, but without the flaws. Tax payers and candidates only have to pay for one election, qualified candidates can’t get weeded out by a small share of voters, voters will have more choice on the ballot and benefit from the enriched public debate and the ultimate decision will be made with the greatest level of citizen participation.”

IRV also reduces negative campaigning by providing more choice on the ballot and a built in incentive for candidates to reach beyond their base to appeal to voters for second choice votes. Candidates are more likely to identify what they have in common with other candidates and not alienate voters with attack campaigns against their opponents.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by joel clemmer on 10/07/2009 - 09:53 am.

    This isn’t adding up for me. The “No Bad” people say “voters need to know that their votes count and that voting for their candidate to win can only help that candidate, not hurt them.” Well, yes.

    I’ve looked at Ranked Choice carefully and find that all votes are counted. If I want to vote for just one top-choice candidate, like now, I can do that. Their convoluted arguments denying that simple, common-sense conclusion are what confuse me.

  2. Submitted by Colin Lee on 10/07/2009 - 01:56 pm.

    The opponents of IRV use convoluted mathematical arguments to attempt to prove that it is in theory possible, although extremely unlikely, to support a candidate more by voting for your favorite candidate as your second choice instead of your first. To make the logic work, you have to know exactly how other voters will rank their ballots and then vote strategically based upon perfect knowledge.

    The real rationale behind the argument is almost always not to improve our voting system, which is already far worse than IRV because of primaries and runoffs which suffer from far worse strategic voting tricks, but instead to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are sizeable groups of people who believe that letting the majority have their choice instead of splitting votes with one another will hurt their group’s political cause. In other words, groups like No Bad Ballots are really preaching against democracy and arguing that they’re doing quite the opposite.

  3. Submitted by J R Brown on 10/08/2009 - 01:40 pm.

    I think the IRV is a scam for insuring that incumbents get reelected. While likely unconstitutional it would make more sense if IRV were implemented thusly: 1 vote for 1st choice, 1/2 vote for 2nd choice, 1/4 vote for 3rd choice, and 1/8 vote for 4th choice.

    It makes no sense whatever to weigh a second choice vote the same as a first choice vote.

    The whole concept of one person one vote is defeated by this offensive plan. IRV should be ruled unconstitutional.

    A sane person would vote for 1st choice only.

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