Instant runoff voting: It's up to St. Paul Council

Chris Havens // Published June 13, 2008 in Star Tribune
The St. Paul City Council will receive a letter Monday that confirms enough residents have signed a petition asking to put instant-runoff voting on the fall ballot.

Now it's up to council members to decide whether it will be put before the people.

What is it? Voters would be asked whether they want a system that ranks mayoral and City Council candidates in order of preference and eliminates September primary elections.

The total number of verified signatures was 5,386, and 5,098 were needed, said Joe Mansky, Ramsey County elections manager.

Who wants it? The Better Ballot Campaign, which is pushing for the change, submitted 7,168 names last week.

"We're really excited because we can move forward to education and outreach," said Amy Brendmoen, spokeswoman for the Better Ballot Campaign. If approved by voters, the change could take effect in 2009, supporters say.

What's next? The council can approve a resolution putting the question on the ballot or keep it off because of legal reasons. Council President Kathy Lantry said Friday that she didn't want to comment until she saw the letter.

Council Member Melvin Carter said he supports instant-runoff voting but is concerned about moving too fast to implement it, should voters approve.

The city attorney's office is preparing a legal opinion on the voting method.

It's controversial.

Proponents say: It ensures a candidate wins by a majority and puts more candidates in front of more voters because turnout is higher at general elections..

Opponents say: It gives people more than one vote. They challenge the constitutionality of instant-runoff voting and say it limits debate by cutting primaries.

What's up in Minneapolis? Minneapolis voters approved instant-runoff voting in 2006, but the system isn't in place yet. An opposition group, the Minnesota Voters Alliance, has sued Minneapolis to stop the plan.

Chris Havens • 651-298-1542