Implementing the Minneapolis Method

Some advantages of the Minneapolis Method include:
  • Ballots are counted by precinct rather than combining all ballots for the office. This avoids the problem of candidate rotation precinct by precinct that complicates sorting ballots.
  • By precinct and office, ballots are sorted down to the unique 3-choice combination (including any possible write-in), counted and then documented on Precinct Ballot Summaries. For an office with 11 candidates, there can be up to 990 different 3-choice combinations…not including the write-ins.
  • Counting offices by precinct allowed multiple offices to be counted simultaneously. Combining all of an office’s ballots together for counting would have only allowed one city-wide office to be counted at a time.
  • When the counting of all offices on the precinct ballots is completed, the ballots can then be sealed and stored by precinct as required by Minnesota law.
  • Providing a means to verify that the same number of votes was counted for each of the five offices on the precinct ballots.
  • Counting by precinct meant that many precincts could be counted simultaneously which allows expanding the counting process if necessary.

The Tabulation Center

The Minneapolis Elections Warehouse was converted to a tabulation center for counting, data entry and data analysis. Amenities included new vending machines in the break room, improved heating, ergonomic chairs, a cleaning crew and nametag racks to hold color-coded nametags to indicate political party affiliation.

Human Resources

Counters and data entry judges were selected from among chair and assistant chair judges as well as top performing team judges as recommended by chair judges. Every day as judges arrived at the tabulation center, they picked up their name tags and timesheets, signed in with staff and were directed to a precinct pod seated next to a counter with a different color-coded nametag.

Supply and Transport

A supply and transport crew was responsible for ballot security and delivering color-coded supplies to each precinct pod. The supplies were color-coded to help with organization and visual management.

Some highlights of color-coding of supplies:

  • A different color was used for each of the five offices for both the name placards and also the ballot summaries.
  • Beige was used for precinct supply lists, duty cards and timesheets.
  • The only white paper allowed at the precinct pod was the actual ballots.

Other notes on organization:

  • Tables were taped off to create different spaces.
  • Each pod had three sets of name placards with the candidate names to label their sorting area.
  • A three-letter abbreviation of each candidate name was taken from the first three letters of a candidate’s last name. Using the 3-letter abbreviation saved time for counters writing and the abbreviations were also built into the data entry documents.
  • Pods had two color-coded slips used to silently request assistance with supplies or process questions, which helped to reduce the background noise.

Sorting and Counting

Precinct pods for counting were designed using a combination of tables to hold the ballot length. Each pod was staffed with six counters, three teams of two judges of different political parties. A crew of up to six roamed the floor to help with on-going training and to answer questions.

Counters at each precinct pod:

  • Staged the ballots for the precinct (sorted them all the same direction).
  • Inspected each ballot for voter errors specific to Ranked Choice Voting and accounted for these errors.
  • Sorted the ballots for each office down to the unique 3-choice combination (including all write-ins), counted the ballots with that combination and completed a ballot summary for each unique combination in the precinct.

When a precinct office was completely counted, the supply and transit crew would review the ballot summaries for completeness and then deliver them to the data entry teams.

Counting each precinct took between five and one-half hours and eight hours, depending on the total number of ballots and number of ballots with voter errors. Counting began Wednesday, November 4, and was completed Friday, November 13.

Data Entry

Data entry judges working at computers as a team of two judges of different parties, entered the precinct level data from the ballot summary sheets into the computer. The team also double-checked their work. A data analysis team then verified the data.

With six teams of two judges each, data entry of the ballot summaries for a precinct office took an average of one-half hour, depending on the number of ballot summaries. Data entry began Wednesday, November 4, and was completed Friday, November 13.

Data Analysis

Data analysis was conducted using a dual track system. Each of the two teams consisted of a lead analyst and an observer. Both teams did analysis on the same office, performing the exact same steps and calculations, and then verified their results with each other.

Data analysis of council offices (which have between 8 to 11 precincts) took 50 to 90 minutes. Analysis of the Park District offices (which have between 19 to 24 precincts) took 50 to 70 minutes. Determining the winning candidate for the city-wide office of Mayor (131 precincts) took four hours and 20 minutes for one round.

Data analysis for the two city-wide multiple-seat offices with five or six rounds took over eight hours each.