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Red Wing officials debate ranked-choice voting, worry about cost

Minneapolis and St.

Minneapolis and St. Paul voters already have approved ranked voting —- and it seemed to work OK in November’s first test in the Minneapolis city election — but officials in Red Wing are looking carefully at the costs involved before jumping on the bandwagon.

The Red Wing Charter Commission is looking at the different way of counting votes but must also consider the city’s budget problems, said the Red Wing Republican-Eagle.

The commission has heard from Jean Massey of FairVote Minnesota, a ranked-choice advocate, who promoted the system, which has voters rank candidates by preference. If no candidate receives a majority of votes, those finishing third place and lower are eliminated from the race. Ballots ranking those candidates first are then redistributed to the two remaining candidates based on voters’ second and third preferences.

It can save money by eliminating the need for a primary election. But the paper wonders if it would save money for Red Wing:

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Because the city holds its elections the same year as the state does, Red Wing would still have to hold primary elections for state races even if there were no local races on the ballots.

The alternative system might cost the city extra dollars because Red Wing’s election equipment isn’t designed to count second- and third-place votes. That means the city could have to pay election judges to perform a hand count, and new machines — which still need to be licensed by the state — would also be an added expense if the city chose to buy them.

If the commission does come to favor ranked-choice voting it can send the measure to the City Council. The council could institute a changeover with a unanimous vote. The commission could also place the proposal on the Nov. 2 election ballot and ask voters to support it.