What Minneapolis voters should expect on Election Day and beyond

Ranked Choice Voting changes the way voters cast their ballots and how results are tabulated

On Nov. 5, Minneapolis voters will head to the polls for the 2013 municipal election. Because city elections in Minneapolis use ranked-choice voting, it’s important for voters to know what to expect on Election Day and in the following days. This election is the second time Minneapolis has used ranked-choice voting—the first was in the 2009 municipal election.

Casting a ballot

When voters show up to the polls Nov. 5, they’ll see the same setup they’re used to finding at the polls, but ranked-choice voting means this year’s ballot will have three columns. Just like any other election year, voters will vote by filling in ovals on a paper ballot. But instead of marking one candidate in each race, voters will be able to rank up to three candidates, using those three columns.

This year, voters will be able to rank their choices for mayor, City Council members, Board of Estimate & Taxation members, and Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board commissioners. The ballot also includes two city questions, which are proposed amendments to the City charter.

Instructions on how to cast a ranked-choice voting ballot will be given to each voter upon arrival at the polling place, and election judges will explain ranked-choice voting to voters as they pick up their ballots. Signage in the polling place will also help make sure voters understand how to mark a ballot.

To learn more about ranked-choice voting, visit the Minneapolis elections website at vote.minneapolismn.gov.

Getting Election Results

New voting equipment will make the tabulation of election results much faster than in the 2009 municipal election. However, because ranked-choice voting requires a special tabulation process, not all final results will be known on election night. In races where there is no winner in the first round of counting, those results will be tabulated in the days following the election.

As each round of counting in each race is completed, those results will be posted in several places:

Although it is not possible to know exactly how long the tabulation will take for the races that do not have winners on election night, elections officials plan to complete tabulation and declare a winner in the mayor’s race on Wednesday, Nov. 6. Tabulation for all races is planned to be complete by Friday, Nov. 8.

Here’s how results tabulation will happen on election night and the following days:

Election night: After the polls close at 8 p.m., ballot counters will be used in each precinct to obtain first-round results. On election night, real-time initial results of raw vote totals will be posted on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website, showing how many first-, second-, and third-choice rankings each candidate received. The first-choice rankings are the unverified first-round results from election night. Because of the way ranked-choice voting, it is not possible to simply add up numbers in the columns to get final results.

If a candidate in a race receives enough first-choice votes to be elected, that candidate will be declared the unofficial winner on election night (note that as usual, all results are unofficial until they’re certified by the City Council, which happens several days after the election).

For example, in the race for mayor, elections officials will look at the total number of ballots cast. If any candidate’s vote total is more than 50 percent plus one of the ballots cast, that candidate will be declared the unofficial winner. City Council races also require more than half the votes in order to win the race. In multi-seat races like Park Board at-large and Board of Estimate and Taxation at-large, more than one person is elected to the office, so the threshold of votes needed to be elected is lower.

If no candidate in a particular race receives enough first-choice votes to be declared the winner on election night, those results will be tabulated using the ranked-choice voting process beginning the day after the election, Nov. 6.

The City’s elections website, vote.minneapolismn.gov, in tandem with the physical posting of results at City Hall in the information center in the rotunda, will be the source for definitive election night results. As complete results come in that night, first choice vote tallies for each race will be posted in these places along with the determination of whether an unofficial winner can be declared or if additional rounds of tabulation will need to occur.

Wednesday, Nov. 6 and beyond: The morning of Nov. 6, elections officials will prepare the results data for tabulation, which will begin that afternoon.

To complete the tabulation, two teams of two elections staffers each will work independently to process the results data and determine winners (to learn more about how ranked-choice voting is counted, watch this video). The two independent teams will do regular checks with each other to ensure that the tabulation results are consistent and accurate.

Ranked-choice voting tabulation processes ballots through a series of rounds, in which the lowest ranked candidate (or candidates) is eliminated, and their votes are redistributed to the next-ranked candidate on those ballots. As each round of counting is completed in each race, those results will be posted on the City’s elections website at vote.minneapolismn.gov. Results for each round will also be posted as they’re available in the City Hall rotunda at 350 S. Fifth St., which will be open to media and the public throughout the process.

Races will be tabulated one at a time, in the order in which the offices are listed on the ballot. A random order has been created to handle City Council wards and Park and Recreation Board districts.

For races in which there is no election night winner, here is the order in which the tabulation will be done, starting Nov. 6:

  • Mayor
  • City Council (wards in this order: 8, 11, 3, 13, 9, 5, 7, 6, 10, 12, 2, 4, 1)
  • Board of Estimate and Taxation
  • Park and Recreation Board at-large
  • Park and Recreation Board (districts in this order: 2, 4, 5, 1, 3, 6)

Note that the two ballot questions (in which voters vote yes or no) do not use ranked-choice voting and will not need to be tabulated in this way.

Elections & Voter Services
City Hall, 350 S. 5th St., Room 201
Minneapolis, MN 55415