Ranked-choice voting history

We describe the history of ranked-choice voting in Minneapolis.

Overview

In November 2006, Minneapolis voters approved a change from traditional balloting to instant runoff (later called ranked choice voting) for municipal elections. The 2006 Minneapolis Instant Runoff Voting Task Force helped plan and implement ranked-choice voting.

Minnesota Election law requires both federal and state certification of all electronic voting systems. Because Minneapolis did not have certified equipment to conduct a Ranked Choice Voting election in 2009, City elections staff had to hand count the 2009 election.

Background

Planning

In December 2006, Minneapolis elections staff met with then Secretary of State-elect Mark Ritchie. They asked to create the Minnesota Ranked Choice Voting Issues Task Force. This task force had an open membership and two subcommittees:

  • Technical Advisory
  • Legislative/Rules

Preparing to implement

Election planning for the 2009 municipal election had a dual-track schedule. This allowed for the possibility that the City Council could postpone ranked-choice voting until a future year.

The 2009 municipal election would have 22 offices on the ballots. Each precinct would have five different offices on the ballot.

During the planning process that year, elections staff:

  • Officially adopted ranked-choice voting as the name of the voting method. They chose the name because:
    • It more accurately reflected the process voters use to rank candidates in single and multiple seat offices.
    • "Ranked choice" did not imply "instant" results from the process.
  • Reviewed the newly-created Ranked Choice Voting city ordinance for needed housekeeping changes.
  • Determined the best method to count the multiple seat offices to comply with Minnesota law. It was the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Method, which could produce the same election results in a recount.
  • Conducted a test election in May 2009 to:
    • Develop the first-draft ballot design.
    • Work with different draft versions of materials for election workers in polling places.
    • Start voter outreach efforts. They invited various groups to try ranked-choice voting and share their feedback on the experience and the ballot.
    • Develop the method for hand counting the single and multiple seat offices to determine the winners. They counted ballots by combining all of the ballots for an office. For a turnout of 70,000 voters, they estimated that the hand count for the 22 offices could take between 24 and 129 eight-hour shifts of 39 counters.

Additional steps

  • In June 2009, the City Council confirmed the ranked-choice voting election schedule.
  • Feedback from the Test Election and other community feedback led an improved ballot design.
  • In August 2009, the City redesigned the hand count process. A one-week "work-out" session developed the Minneapolis Method of hand counting ballots at the precinct level. Using the Minneapolis Method, hand counting a 70,000 voter turnout for 22 offices would take 37 eight-hour shifts with 102 election judges serving as counters and data entry staff. This new method would assure seating elected candidates on time.
  • The training plan for election judges was designed to use at least half of the class time to explain ranked-choice voting to the judges.
  • The City hired an organization to conduct a impartial survey of voters, candidates and election workers about implementation.
  • The City also recruited a historian to document the implementation.
  • In addition to traditional precinct staffing, the City hired election workers to do counting and data entry.

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