St. Paul group touts instant runoff vote

By Kevin Behr
Published March 6th 2007 in Star Tribune
A grass-roots group is starting a petition drive tonight to bring instant run-off voting to St. Paul.

Amy Brendmoen of the St. Paul Better Ballot Campaign said the group must collect 5,000 signatures by May 6 to get the proposal on the November ballot. The group will begin the effort tonight at city DFL Party precinct caucuses.

"I think St. Paul voters are ready for something different," Brendmoen said. "Ordinary voters are tired of the status quo."

In an instant run-off election, voters rank candidates in order of preference rather than vote for a single candidate. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote after the initial count, the candidate with the lowest percentage is eliminated from the race. Those who voted for that candidate will have their second-choice votes distributed to the remaining candidates. The process is repeated automatically until someone gains a majority.

In November, Minneapolis voters approved the system for city elections by a wide margin.

Andy Cilek, executive director of the Minnesota Voters Alliance, said the run-off system takes away voters' ability to make informed decisions about candidates. The Voters Alliance is challenging the legality of Minneapolis' ballot from last year because rules on how to count run-off votes and the format of the new ballots hadn't been decided before the vote on the measure.

Brendmoen said she fully expects to reach 5,000 signatures -- maybe even 10,000, she said.

Kevin Behr is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.