Blocking democracy in St. Paul elections

Dakota Rae // Published July 2, 2008 in Minnesota Daily
Over the last year, instant runoff voting supporters organized as the St. Paul Better Ballot Campaign collected more than 7,000 signatures from voters in favor of IRV. The petition was certified by the Ramsey County Elections Office earlier this month; however, the City Council has been trying to nullify the voice of the people who wish to see this important issue on their ballot.

The Council has declared that it will vote today to keep the measure from the ballot this year, after seeking the advice of City Attorney John Choi, whose opinion is that IRV "might be" unconstitutional. St. Paul's Charter states that only measures found to be "manifestly unconstitutional" can be blocked.

IRV, however, is a constitutionally proved voting method in other cities across the nation. IRV is currently used in San Francisco; Cambridge, Mass.; Burlington, Vt.; Takoma Park, Md., and in Cary and Hendersonville, N.C. It will soon be implemented in almost two-dozen other cities. In Minneapolis, the City Council voted 12-1 to put IRV on the ballot in 2006, where it overwhelmingly won, and will be used for the first time next year. Why, then, would the St. Paul Council act so obviously against the people and the law? If implemented, IRV would be the new process through which St. Paul elects City Council members and the mayor.

By voting to keep IRV from its proper place on this year's St. Paul ballot, the City Council will attempt not only to violate the Charter, but also to abuse the power given to them by the people.

IRV simplifies voting and increases choice by taking out the primary in local nonpartisan elections, by putting all candidates on a single ballot and by letting voters rank them in order of their preference. A majority winner emerges in a single election, without the hassle and cost of a run-off election. IRV eliminates "spoiler votes," allowing voters to express their conscience in confidence, and increases participation through diversity of candidates and issues.

If you live in St. Paul, contact your council member and urge them to uphold the will of the voters by putting IRV on the ballot this November.

Dakota Rae is University Alumna and works for the St .Paul Better Ballot Campaign.