Ranked-choice voting: Go big or go home!

Semi-retired Star Tribune columnist Lori Sturdevant wrote recently about the just-started Minnesota legislative session under the headline:

DFL may go big, and that wouldn’t be bad

Some policy moves are worth making, even if they come at a political price. 

At the end of the column, she mentions ranked-choice voting (RCV) as one of those policy moves worth making.

I’m rooting for one other long-sought change: ranked-choice voting (RCV). (I’m guessing [State Rep. Cedrick] Frazier had that in mind too. He’s the RCV bill’s sponsor in the House.)

In the above quote, Sturdevant mentions state representative Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope). In 2021, Frazier introduced an RCV bill, one of four submitted during the previous two-year session. None of the four received a committee hearing, despite Democratic control of the chamber.

So far, no RCV bills have been introduced this session, which is only two weeks old.

Sturdevant writes in support of RCV,

It’s been 25 years since Minnesota RCV backers first told me about the advantages of ranking candidates and sorting ballots until a majority winner emerges. It’s a way to eliminate low-turnout primaries and promote majority rule, while encouraging the democratic dynamism of third parties and ad hoc coalitions.

Majority rule? Take the example of the 2013 election for Minneapolis mayor. After 33 rounds of counting, (33!) the eventual winner (Betsy Hodges) still couldn’t crack 49 percent of the vote. In close elections, with a multitude of candidates on the ballot, RCV can fail to produce a majority winner.

Rather than “encouraging the democratic dynamism,” RCV has the effect of elevating fringe candidates.

Sturdevant adds later,

And when Maine and Alaska showed that RCV works well in state elections, I thought: Why can’t Minnesota be next?

I’m not sure that Republican voters (who represent the majority in Alaska), would agree with that. Three Republican state legislators have filed bills to repeal RCV in Alaska in the newly-begun session in that state legislature. The Anchorage Daily News writes,

Conservative Republican lawmakers have bristled against the new voting system, saying they have heard from constituents who found it confusing.

Sturdevant doesn’t mention California. It turns out Alameda County (Oakland) may have screwed up counting ranked-choice ballots in the last election and declared the wrong winner. The election results were certified weeks ago, but the mistake was only recently discovered. Oops.

We’ll be keeping an eye on this issue at all state capitols this year.