Ranked choice voting a tougher sell outside the metro

Advocates of replacing our conventional up-or-down voting system want all Minnesotans to have the option of switching to a clumsy, confusing alternative called ranked choice voting. Thus far, just a handful of metro cities have bought into the left-wing fad that allows voters to rank the candidates on their ballot, a process that can result in a delay of days or weeks for a winner to emerge, among other concerns.

The Pioneer covered the sales pitch by the organization seeking to build political momentum across the state for legislation to expand ranked choice in places like Bemidji.

Like many people, Maureen Reed became dissatisfied with the animosity so frequently seen in politics. After researching, she sees ranked choice voting as a possible solution.

Presenting to the Bemidji City Council on Monday, Jan. 9, as the chair of FairVote Minnesota, Reed outlined what she sees as the problems in the current election system and how ranked choice voting could benefit voters.

“What we have seen in jurisdictions that have put in place ranked choice voting, is it dials down the rancor,” Reed said. “It aims the conversation toward an issue-based campaign.”

The claim that ranked choice voting leads to a kinder, gentler body politic simply doesn’t hold up, according to an analysis by American Experiment’s Bill Glahn. Here’s an excerpt:

To win under ranked choice, leading candidates must appeal to the voters of candidates who will not make the finals. By definition, it is the fringe candidates who will be eliminated, and their votes redistributed.

In my example, the two leading centrist candidates would not craft messages to appeal to each other’s voters. Each centrist candidate would appeal to their respective fringe.

Under this scenario, politics becomes more polarized, not less.

Nevertheless, supporters of alternatives to traditional voting continue to push the narrative that ranked choice could transform the harsh tone they believe defines our politics. In reality, it may be the only way to break through with many voters, who have never heard of ranked choice voting, nor have any idea how it works.

The hope for Reed is that this style of voting will encourage less division not only during campaigns but also in governing bodies.

“This has the option to dial back the extremism,” Reed said. “I can put my voice behind that.”

The DFL-controlled state legislature offers an opening for the expansion of ranked choice voting this session. But supporters clearly have a ways to go in garnering popular interest, much less support, outside of St. Paul.

Ward 2 Councilor Josh Peterson expressed some hesitancy toward the idea of changing the voting system.

“I’m kind of old school,” Peterson said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

…Mayor Jorge Prince, in his comments, shared that he wasn’t sure ranked choice voting would solve all of the problems present in politics, though agreed that improvements needed to be made.

“I don’t automatically absolve individual candidates, the two-party system, we could go on. There are a lot of things that could stand to improve here, above and beyond our voting system,” Prince said.