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Duluth Budgeteer News

Duluth may consider instant runoff voting
By Pat Faherty
November 13, 2002

Instant runoff voting for the mayoral race could become a city legislative priority.

With the dust just settling from the Nov. 5 general election, the buzz is growing louder about next year's race for the city's top spot. Mayor Gary Doty has already announced he will not seek another term.

Council President Donny Ness raised the issue Tuesday evening, during a council committee discussion on legislative priorities.

Ness said there could be eight or nine legitimate candidates in the mayor's race, and Councilor Russell Stover said it could be more like 10 or 12.

Under the current system, the top vote getters in the primary move on to the general election. As a result, Ness said someone get on that ballot with only 15 percent of voter support.

Whereas, instant runoff voting (IRV) ensures that the winning candidate will have majority support. It works on the principle that any vote cast that does not help elect a voter's preferred candidate should be able to help elect that voter's next choice.

The system allows voters to rank candidates as their first and second and possibly third choice. If there is no majority winner the first count, runoff counts are held as the least favored candidates are eliminated.

The process continues until one candidate receives 50 percent of the vote or only one candidate remains.

"It's something I am interested in exploring," said Ness. "It's something I'd like to see the city pursue."

He said it might be a city legislative priority and asked Kevin Walli, the city's lobbyist to look into what it would take to get the process going at the state level.

Walli said he would take it to Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer first.

IRV has caught on in various areas around the country. San Francisco has adopted it for city races and Oakland, Calif., will use IRV for special mayor elections. It has become popular in Vermont and there is a movement to amend the city charter to use IRV in Minneapolis elections.

Backers say it draws more voters and saves money, while opponents have argued the tabulation process is complicated.

Filing for Duluth mayor's race opens in July.

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