Horny Toad the choice in IRV election

By Capitol Report Staff
Published October 1st 2009 in St. Paul Legal Ledger
Yes, this is still a family newspaper – Horny Toad is a beer.

Patrons at the Vine Park Brewing Co., 1254 W. 7th St., St. Paul, recently participated in a demonstration of how instant run-off (or ranked choice) voting works – thanks to the imaginative folks at FairVote Minnesota and the St. Paul version of the Better Ballot Campaign (BBC).

Vine Park and several other St. Paul restaurants or coffee shops have taken part in these “tasting trials” as a way to spread the word about IRV in advance of Nov. 3, when St. Paul residents will vote for whether they will adopt IRV as their voting system.

After three rounds of instant runoffs, Horny Toad Pale Ale prevailed with 58 percent of the vote, against four other contenders – Rattlesnake Dopple Bock, Walnut Brown Ale, Capital Hill Pilsner and Big Stinger Honey Wheat, according to Vine Park.

In IRV, people vote for their top three choices; if no choice garners 50 percent or more of the vote, a runoff occurs. If a person’s top choice doesn’t land among the top three overall vote getters, that choice gets eliminated and that person’s votes for second and third choice get disseminated among the remaining choices.

The first of the election alternatives to grab 50 percent or more of the vote, wins.

In 2006, after a similar grassroots campaign, Minneapolis adopted IRV as its voting system (along with three other U.S. cities and counties). In all, 20 cities and counties in the U.S. use or are about to implement IRV, according to the BBC, a political arm of the folks and resources at FairVote Minnesota.

(Technically, BBC is an affiliated political committee of FairVote.)

For more information on the Vine Park IRV election, check out http://stpaul.betterballotcampaign.org/node/1458.

These “tasting trials” are not the only thing that the St. Paul BBC is doing as Nov. 3 approaches: They’ve solicited dozens of people to write letters to the editor at various local newspapers in St. Paul, including the Pioneer Press, according to Dakotah Rae Johnson, BBC coordinator for FairVote.

In addition, more than 250 lawn signs have been planted on lawns in St. Paul, thanks to the efforts of the BBC, Rae Johnson said.

Since the St. Paul BBC effort began in 2007, some 16,000 supporters across Minnesota have signed petitions, signed up as supporters at events or have registered online as supporters – including 5,500 in St. Paul, according to Jeanne Massey, executive director of FairVote Minnesota.

Funding for the St. Paul effort has come from the St. Paul Foundation, Bigelow Foundation, Target Foundation, the Bremer Foundation, Ms. Foundation and hundreds of individual donations of between $5 and $5,000, Massey said.

Duluth is starting a BBC campaign to try and spread the word about IRV there, Rae Johnson added.

IRV Soars in Twin Cities, FairVote Corrects the Pundits on Meaning of Election Night '09
Election Day '09 was a roller-coaster for election reformers.  Instant runoff voting had a great night in Minnesota, where St. Paul voters chose to implement IRV for its city elections, and Minneapolis voters used IRV for the first time—with local media touting it as a big success. As the Star-Tribune noted in endorsing IRV for St. Paul, Tuesday’s elections give the Twin Cities a chance to show the whole state of Minnesota the benefits of adopting IRV. There were disappointments in Lowell and Pierce County too, but high-profile multi-candidate races in New Jersey and New York keep policymakers focused on ways to reform elections;  the Baltimore Sun and Miami Herald were among many newspapers publishing commentary from FairVote board member and former presidential candidate John Anderson on how IRV can mitigate the problems of plurality elections.

And as pundits try to make hay out of the national implications of Tuesday’s gubernatorial elections, Rob Richie in the Huffington Post concludes that the gubernatorial elections have little bearing on federal elections.