'Ranked-choice' voting saves time, money

Mary Evans and Bob Wahman // Published March 21, 2009 in Duluth News Tribune

Mary Evans and Bob Wahman of the Duluth Better Ballot Campaign state their case for instant runoff voting, which they hope will be on the ballot in Duluth in 2010.

We are pleased the News Tribune has taken an interest in ranked-choice voting, also frequently called instant-runoff voting, the subject of an article on the Local cover on March 12.

While the two terms are essentially synonymous, we at Duluth Better Ballot have chosen to prefer “ranked-choice voting,” as it’s more descriptive of the process.

Duluth Better Ballot is a group of Duluthians who see ranked-choice voting as a distinct improvement in our election process. We have begun organizing and will be initiating a communitywide educational program showing how and why adopting this process would be advantageous. Our goal is to have a charter amendment to authorize the use of ranked-choice voting on the ballot for consideration by Duluth voters in 2010.

Ranked-choice voting — or, if you prefer, instant-runoff voting — is a distinct improvement in the election process for many reasons. It would prevent candidates from winning elections with less than a majority of the votes cast.

One could still vote for a favorite candidate without concern for wasting a vote or being a “spoiler.”

Local nonpartisan primary elections with notably low voter turnout would be eliminated. Instead, there would be one general election, which generally enjoy higher voter turnout. The process, therefore, would be much more efficient and effective, saving the considerable cost of a primary election.

In races where ranked-choice voting is used, campaigns tend to be more issue-driven. Negative campaigning is reduced as candidates are leery of angering voters who may cast second-choice ballots.

Ranked-choice voting is used in a number of American jurisdictions as well as in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Exit polling in these areas has consistently shown higher voter satisfaction.

Ranked-choice voting will be used in Minneapolis elections this year.

The constitutionality and legality of ranked-choice voting have been consistently upheld, even in the face of legal challenges, including a suit brought last year by a group in Minnesota.

Ranked-choice voting enjoys nonpartisan support. We are pleased to have Duluth Mayor Don Ness and several Duluth city councilors in support of the voting method.

Ron Carey, the chairman of the Republican Party, was clearly wrong when he said that ranked-choice voting “goes against the concept of one person, one vote.” One gets only one vote in ranked-choice voting. Carey is out of step with many of his party’s leaders, including U.S. Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Dave Durenberger.

Details of the ranked-choice voting process are spelled out at fairvotemn.org. We encourage anyone who takes the time to become educated and to be convinced of the value of ranked-choice voting to help us pass an amendment to our Duluth City Charter.

Mary Evans and Bob Wahman represent the Duluth Better Ballot Campaign.