ST. PAUL (May 20, 2011) – Minnesota is another step closer to smarter, less costly and more substantive elections as of Friday. Jeanne Massey, executive director, FairVote Minnesota, said voting reform advocates are cheering the introduction of legislation that would give communities across the state local control over the option of using Ranked Choice Voting and would streamline the process of making this change.
The bill (S.F 1446, HF 1737), introduced this week by Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) and Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), aims to establish uniform RCV guidelines for local jurisdictions and provide any city, county or school district that wants to use RCV the opportunity to do so. It also would set RCV-capable equipment standards for the next generation of voting machines purchased in Minnesota.
Minneapolis made a successful transition to RCV in 2009 and St. Paul will begin using the new system this fall. Red Wing and Duluth are considering RCV for their local elections, and several other communities have expressed interest as well. This legislation would help them make the transition more simply and smoothly.
Providing local control and improving the quality and fairness of our elections are goals that transcend party or ideology. Ranked Choice Voting, which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference on the ballot – 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice, etc. – eliminates the need for costly, low-turnout primaries in local nonpartisan elections; ensures candidates win with a majority of support in a single, higher-turnout election in November; and promotes more civil campaigns. In short, it saves money and fosters representation that’s truer to the will of the voters. It also eliminates barriers for military and overseas voters, who under the current system must return their ballots between the primary and general election in time to be counted.
Facilitating smooth and consistent transitions to RCV throughout the state would make Minnesota a model for 21st century elections.
“As a former school board member, I know local communities are laboratories of innovation,” Kelly said. “This bill gives cities, counties and school districts the tools and flexibility they need to explore and, if they choose, to adopt a new approach to local elections that’s been shown to work here in Minnesota.”
Rest called the bill “a key step in allowing Minnesota cities the opportunity to improve local elections. It’s exciting to see communities enact commonsense voting reforms that promote greater participation and more substantive elections,” Rest said.
A date for a hearing on the bill has not yet been set. You can follow updates on hearing dates and other information related to the bill at FairVoteMN.org.
Founded in 1996, FairVote Minnesota works to better democracy through public education and advocacy. The organization’s primary focus is on progressive voting systems that lead to greater competitiveness, better representation and more participation in elections. www.fairvotemn.org