Legislation in Minnesota would implement ranked choice voting for all state and federal elections. Other potential legislation would also allow municipal government to opt-in to a system of ranked choice voting.
Ranked choice voting is a commonsense change that gives voters the option to rank candidates for office in the order they prefer them. If no candidate receives a majority of the first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the votes that candidate received count instantly towards the next choice on those voters’ ballots. That process repeats until a candidate receives a majority of the vote and wins.
Ranked choice voting gives voters a stronger voice and more choice when they cast their ballots, eliminates the “spoiler effect,” and helps guarantee that elected leaders are supported by a true majority.
Momentum has been building within the business, political, and grassroots communities to advance ranked choice voting in Minnesota, a state without citizen initiated ballot measures and currently the only state with split party control of its legislature. Ranked choice voting legislation was poised to pass in the state house in 2020 until the pandemic stalled most policy bills. The bill had support from the governor and secretary of state.
Two pro-marijuana parties have emerged in the state, and as a result there is an increased fear of “spoiled” elections, creating an acute problem that RCV can solve while lowering the barriers to competition. A growing number of Minnesota legislators are campaigning for RCV and have entered office as champions to pass it.
Three cities in Minnesota currently use ranked choice voting. Initiatives to adopt ranked choice voting passed in Minneapolis (2006, with 65% support) and St. Paul (2009, with 53% support), while St Louis Park unanimously adopted the system by council vote in 2017.
Voters in two other cities — Bloomington and Minnetonka — passed policies in 2020 that will implement ranked choice voting starting in 2021. The ballot measures passed with 51% and 55% support, respectively.
Following implementation in Minneapolis in 2013, RCV helped produce the most ethnically diverse and gender-balanced city council, with the first Somali, Latina, and Hmong American candidates elected. In 2017, the number of candidates who were women, people of color, or from different political parties was at an all time high. In St. Paul, second-place votes helped elect the first Hmong city council member in 2013 in one ward, the first female council member in 2015; in 2017, RCV helped elect the city’s first African-American mayor; and in 2019, the city’s diverse Ward 6 voters elected their first Hmong representative under RCV.In St. Louis Park in 2019, the city elected its first Somali member to the city council and a winner in a highly competitive at-large race spurred by ranked choice voting.
The movement for ranked choice voting in Minnesota is led by FairVote Minnesota, a nonpartisan organization working to establish a healthier democracy through public education and advocacy of electoral reform.
The organization was founded in 1996 and was instrumental in the adoption of ranked choice voting in three cities in Minnesota. The organization is guided by a board of business, community, and political leaders, and led by Jeanne Massey, who has more than 25 years of experience in nonprofit leadership and organizing.