[Image courtesy of Art of Life]
Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl recently released an analysis of the 2013 mayoral race, which featured the first use of the city’s ranked-choice voting system to fill an open seat in City Hall. The Star-Tribune’s Eric Roper has more:
Minneapolis election officials are recommending that city rules be changed to speed vote counting, eliminate frivolous candidacies and give tabulators more privacy.
A detailed report provided to the City Council’s elections committee, which meets Tuesday, also shows that 2013 city elections cost $1.7 million. That’s just over what city clerk Casey Carl originally requested, but much more than the $1.3 million the council approved.
One major driver of the cost was mailing a voter guide to every household in the city, which cost $97,536.
One interesting finding is that a survey of voters found a fairly even split between voters who like the ranking system and those who prefer “traditional” systems:
An accompanying survey of 800 residents found that voters are somewhat split on their opinions of ranked choice voting. Forty-one percent said they prefer the traditional voting system, followed by 39 percent who prefer ranked-choice voting and 17 percent who did not have a preference.
Fifty-three percent of respondents said ranked choice voting should be used in future municipal elections, however. Thirty-seven percent said it should not.
In any event, the clerk is asking for a series of legal changes to shorten the ballot, speed tabulation and make for a more orderly process overall:
Carl’s office recommended in their report that ordinances should be changed for the 2017 municipal election to allow for batch elimination based on candidates’ potential to win the election. Rather than eliminating all mathematically impossible candidates at once, current ordinances use a slower method that was designed for hand counting.
The current rules and a glut of 35 mayoral candidates meant it took two 12-hour days to tabulate the results of the mayor’s race. So many candidates received a minimal amount of votes, however, that Carl’s office estimates that 91 percent could have been defeated in the first round of tabulation if the rules had been different.
That would have meant producing a final result in the afternoon following Election Day.
One complicating factor in last year’s race was a lengthy ballot of 35 candidates that made choosing, ranking and tabulating ballots a challenge. The clerk’s office wants to raise the filing fee in an effort to ensure that only candidates with a certain level of support make it on to the ballot:
Carl’s office also recommended increasing the $20 filing fee to get on the ballot.
“The public reasonably expects candidates to display a certain level of public support in order to appear on the ballot,” the report said. “Requiring a candidate to pay a filing fee higher than the current fee of $20 (or allowing ballot access if they reach a certain number of signatures on a candidacy petition) achieves this goal.”
Finally, the report asks for a legal change regarding public tabulation:
Another oddity of the 2013 election was watching tabulators manipulate Excel spreadsheets via a Skype feed into the City Hall rotunda. Carl recommended changing the ordinance language to clarify that public observation of tabulation is only necessary if paper ballots are being handled.
I noted last fall that Minneapolis’ experience in 2013 would be a useful guidepost for other jurisdictions either considering or already conducting ranked-choice voting. This report is a valuable document for understanding exactly how such elections work and what it means for election officials before and after ballots are cast.