Where all the Voting Systems are Above Average (hopefully)

by Forrest Barnum // Published July 16, 2009
The recent legal victory for Minneapolis's Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) system has energized reform efforts in neighboring St. Paul. Presented with a petition containing 7,000 signatures in favor of IRV, the St. Paul City Council voted unanimously to allow a referendum on adopting the new system. The vote will take place alongside regularly scheduled municipal elections this November. As noted in the MPR report, some members on the city council do not support IRV, yet they courageously allowed the issue to be decided by the people. The campaign will obviously be hard fought, but the St. Paul Better Ballot Campaign is gearing up, marshaling comprehensive educational resources, an impressive list of local supporters, and grassroots oriented advocacy tools.

These exciting developments have implications for statewide contests in 2010. Both Mayor R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman are possible candidates for the open governor's office. Rybak is a supporter of IRV while Coleman has not yet taken a position on the issue. With electoral reform taking Minnesota's largest cities by storm, the movement is being spread outside the Twin Cites through the advocacy of FairVote Minnesota. Former Republican Senator David Durenberger and Political Scientist David Schultz made the case for IRV in the Duluth News Tribune, while the Bemidji Pioneer editorialized in its favor. This snowballing interest in IRV is creating a dialogue on democracy and democratic institutions in all regions and at all levels in Minnesota; an exciting development that will hopefully be repeated in other states as local movements build on past successes.