Ranked-choice-voting results in St. Paul Ward 1 race put Dai Thao on top

Dai Thao has won St. Paul’s Ward 1 City Council election, after votes were reallocated today under the ranked-choice-voting rules in a seven-candidate race.

An IT manager who’s worked on progressive causes and legislative campaigns, he will be the city’s first Hmong American council member.

The official canvassing of the election, where the results will become official, is scheduled for Wednesday.

The election was held last Tuesday, but even though Thao led the voting when first-choice ballots were counted, he didn’t have a majority, which led to Monday’s ranked-choice reallocation.

In the end, when the lower-vote-getting candidates were eliminated and their selections reallocated, Thao ended up with 1,970 votes, to 1,722 for second-place finisher Noel Nix.

Thao will be sworn into office Nov. 21, and will serve the remaining two years of Melvin Carter III’s term. Carter stepped down in the summer to take a job in the state education department.

Veteran activist and retired firefighter Nathaniel Khaliq held the seat on an interim basis for several months.

Seven candidates, including another Hmong  American candidate, former school board member Kazoua Kong-Thao, ran in the race.  Nix, who came in second, had been Carter’s council aide.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 11/12/2013 - 02:26 pm.

    RCV and majorities

    Thao won with 41 percent of the vote, which once again belies the claim that Ranked Choice Voting ensures majority winners.


  2. Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 11/13/2013 - 11:29 am.

    RCV increased Mr. Thao’s plurality of support.

    Dai Thao won in a seven-candidate race. Using the traditional method of counting, all a candidate needs to win in a seven-candidate race is one-seventh of all votes cast plus one vote, or about 14.29%.

    But Mr. Thao won with 41% of the votes cast, a number that is much larger than 14.29% – and, more importantly, larger than the share of votes Thao had received in the first round of counting, which was 28%. How did Thao’s plurality increase from 28% to 41%?

    This happened because that 28% represented only the votes cast by voters who made Mr. Thao their first choice. But Thao was also the second-choice candidate of many voters whose first choice was one of the five candidates eliminated from the race after the first round of counting. Under the traditional system of counting, all these votes would have been thrown away. But under RCV, these votes were transfered, according to the voters’ own preferences, and some of them helped to give Thao a bigger plurality of support.

    I agree that RCV does not guarantee majority support for any candidate, and I don’t like it when proponents of RCV make this inflated claim. But RCV does guarantee a larger plurality of support for any candidate who wins a race between three candidates or more. RCV also reduces the number of votes that are thrown away by allowing some of them, according to the voters’ own preferences, to contribute to the success of a second or third-choice candidate. The election of Dai Thao in Saint Paul’s first ward demonstrates both of these benefits clearly.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 11/17/2013 - 07:27 pm.


      While I appreciate that you recognize that RCV does not ensure majorities, but your claim also is not true. With its old run-off system, the winners in St. Paul were guaranteed be majority winners. Thao would have had at at least 50 percent. With RCV, he only got 41.

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