There is No Reason to Have Ranked Choice Voting

February 18, 2015 at 10:47 pm Leave a comment


By Andrew Richter

We should bury this “idea” for good;

Already in place in Minneapolis and St. Paul, ranked choice voting will wait at least two years to be implemented in Crystal. At it’s Jan. 22 meeting, the city’s charter commission voted to table the issue until after the 2016 election cycle. Ranked choice voting – as the name might suggest – is the process by which voters are able to rank the candidates in a single race instead of voting for just one candidate.

“Under the system, all ballots are tallied according to first-place choices. In a single-winner election, if one candidate wins a majority … among all first-place votes, that candidate is the winner,” reads literature provided by FairVote Minnesota, a ranked choice advocacy organization. “If not, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated and the ballots for this candidate are redistributed among the remaining candidates according to the second choices on those ballots. The process continues until one candidate has picked up a majority of votes.”

Advocates for the process claim it eliminates “wasted” votes, increases voter participation, allows candidates to appeal to a wide array of voters, and reduces the cost of elections by eliminating the need for primary and runoff votes. FairVote’s Jeanne Massey said her organization works with individual cities to help them pass and implement ranked choice voting. Minneapolis adopted the practice in 2006, she explained, and St. Paul did likewise in 2009. A “legislative option” has also been floated, which would allow cities without a charter to implement the practice through their city council.

Yeah we can turn every election into a circus like Minneapolis.

Nearby cities, such as Brooklyn Park and Saint Louis Park have discussed the idea, as well, Massey added. Crystal Charter Commission members’ concerns included the cost of the measure, how many of them would return after a fresh round of appointments to the commission itself, and what the objective of implementing such a measure would be, exactly.

“It is important to not do something because it’s the latest and greatest fancy, shiny toy. It’s also important not to do something because we’ve always done it this way,” said Jim Oathout, commission member. “Before I can support something like this, we have to define what it is we’re trying to achieve. What is the definition of improvement? What is the definition of better? What is the definition of working? Is that more voter turnout? Is that more diverse candidates? We don’t have that definition.”

Thank you Mr. Oathout! Now that is a fresh perspective that you almost never hear!

The commission’s decision to table the measure until at least 2016 gives it the ability to wait and see how it works in cities in which it is already implemented.

Council opinions

Avowed Green Party member Laura Libby, who represents the city’s Section I, said she supports ranked choice voting and featured it on her campaign materials and website. “I think it allows people to have more choice, more so in bigger elections,” Libby said. “If you vote for something outside the main two party system, you can vote without feeling scared, like, ‘oh I’m throwing my vote away.’”

What? This is wrong on so many levels. First off, we are talking about Crystal city elections right? I thought these were non-partisan elections? What is this crap about the “two-party system.” Second there is no such thing as a wasted vote. If you do your research, follow elections, and vote for the person you think is the best candidate, then you’ve done your job as a voter. The only people who are a waste are the people who stay home on election day.

As with many things for Libby, this is all about her. Think about what she says here; “more choice, more so in bigger elections.” What do you mean by “bigger elections?” Are you representing section 1 Ms. Libby or are you advocating for the Green Party?

Libby said the benefits of ranked choice include avoiding primaries, which have notoriously low voter turnout numbers. Eliminating primaries could also make each election cycle less expensive for cities that adopt the practice. She cited the city’s most recent round of primary elections, held last August, which saw three separate candidates run for each available seat. The primary narrowed the field to six. “All three could have been on the ballot in November, then more people would have had that choice,” Libby said.

Now I agree that primary turnout is low but I’m literally laughing out loud at the idea that Libby is concerned about city expenses. This is the same councilperson that said at a council meeting last year that she “couldn’t think of anything to cut.” She has no interest is less government.

And what is this crap about having “more choice” in the 2014 elections? People had choice in all three council elections in both August and November. What are you talking about more choice?

Council members Jeff Kolb and Olga Parsons, who were elected in that same cycle, have their doubts about ranked choice voting. “It is a solution in search of a problem,” wrote Kolb. “2014 was a historic anomaly where we had contested primaries in all 3 races. If there aren’t 3 or more candidates, there is literally no benefit to the system.”

Kolb is 100% right. In 2012 Julie Deshler and Casey Peak both ran unopposed. In 2010 Mark Hoffman ran unopposed. It is rare to have so many candidates.

Kolb suggested that a “more realistic” election reform would be to move primary elections to June.

Let me ask a question: Can we just eliminate city primaries? Crystal is a Charter City. I’m not sure of the answer but that would be better than ranked choice voting or “waiting for the state to do something.”

Parsons described a potential change to ranked choice as “problematic.” “We would have to coordinate with state wide elections, launch an ongoing educational campaign, etc.,” she wrote, adding that spoiled ballots are “of particular concern.” Parsons added that a grassroots campaign would cause her to listen and consider a pro-ranked choice argument. “So far, I’ve only heard from the officials representing (ranked choice voting) professionally, and nothing from the members of our community,” she wrote.

My hope is that this idea goes in the garbage. People should have to WIN elections, not get the most 3rd place votes.

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Entry filed under: City Government, Community, Crystal. Tags: , , .

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