Minneapolis lauches IRV education campaign for Nov. 3 elections

By Scott Goldberg
Published October 19th 2009 in kare11
MINNEAPOLIS -- The city of Minneapolis has launched an effort to educate voters about instant runoff voting, a new system for electing citywide candidates that will be used for the first time in just two weeks.

Between now and Election Day, Nov. 3, the city is holding a series of public meetings to explain IRV, which also is known as "ranked choice" voting.

At the first such meeting Monday night, voter Arfasse Oromiyaa said she thought the new system, in which voters rank their preferences among candidates instead of voting for just one, might help avoid messy situations like last year's Senate recount.

"(After) all the fiasco with the latest election, I think it might be an option," she said.

With IRV, a voter can vote for up to three candidates by filling in ovals next to his or her 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices for each office. The 2nd and 3rd choice votes come into play only if no candidate wins enough 1st place votes to be elected outright.

The system only will be used for municipal elections, i.e., mayor, city council, park board and board of estimate and taxation. Minneapolis is the only city in the state using the system, which was approved by voters three years ago. Saint Paul voters will consider switching to IRV next month.

"We're still in the process of getting the word out," said Mike Dean, who was leading the voter education meeting Monday night in Northeast Minneapolis.

He said voters who still aren't familiar with IRV on Election Day will get quick tutorials from election judges at the polling place.

"Each person is actually going to get kind of a personalized training when they come in and vote," he said.

Those lessons could prove to be quite helpful if the public meetings don't become more popular. On Monday night, Arfasse Oromiyaa was the only voter in the room who showed up to listen to Dean's lesson.

After hearing him explain IRV, Oromiyaa said the system was relatively easy to understand.

"With explanation, people will get it," she said.

There will be 14 more of these meetings between now and Nov. 3.

Click here for more information including meeting dates and times. You can also call 311.

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.