Sun Current: Ranked-choice voting is an opportunity to transform politics

Published on October 22, 2020

Laura Calbone and Marcia Wattson in The Sun Current:

Like many people, we are ready for change.

Political polarization is dividing our families and communities, and partisanship is preventing our elected officials from addressing the important issues of our time – whether it be health care, climate change, racism, a deadly pandemic or preserving democracy itself.

While elections for City Council and mayor are supposed to be nonpartisan, we see partisanship beginning to creep into our local politics. We don’t want our local government hampered by the partisanship and gridlock we see at the state and federal level. We want Bloomington voters to be more engaged and excited to vote in local elections. We want our elected leaders to reach out to and represent all their constituents. That is why we are working so hard to bring ranked-choice voting to Bloomington.

One-and-a-half years ago, the two of us met for lunch after attending a presentation about ranked-choice voting. We were inspired by the possibilities of this simple change to give voters more power and incentivize candidates to focus on the issues and appeal to more voters. We also liked that ranked-choice voting elects majority winners who are responsive to all their constituents and not just their political base. Since that lunch, we have been knocking on doors, making phone calls, tabling at events and giving presentations to Bloomington residents about ranked-choice voting.

Through these efforts, we’ve built support across the community and across the political spectrum from residents who want to see less polarization, partisanship and negative campaigning, and more candidate diversity, voter engagement and focus on issues important to residents. Because our city council heard from hundreds of residents supporting ranked-choice voting, they voted to put the question on the 2020 ballot, when the greatest number of voters can have their say.

Ballot question 3 asks Bloomington voters if they want to elect our mayor and city council members using the ranked-choice voting method, starting next year. If 51% or more voters say yes, then the low-turnout primary for City Council and mayor will no longer be needed, saving taxpayer dollars and reducing the influence of political parties in determining who our choices will be. Candidates would not be eliminated in a primary in which only 5-10% of voters participate. Instead, all candidates would campaign through the November election, when turnout is greater and more representative of the community.

Ranked-choice voting is a simple change to the ballot that allows voters to rank their preferences, accomplishing in one election what our current system does in two. Ranked-choice voting allows voters to express their full range of support and vote for the candidate they like best instead of voting against the candidate they like least.

Voters don’t need to worry that they are wasting their vote or that a lesser known candidate can act as a spoiler. On election night, all the first-choice votes are counted. If a candidate has a majority, they win. If not, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated and those ballots count for those voters’ second-choice candidate. The process continues until one candidate has earned a majority. That’s what democracy requires and what we as voters deserve.

Ranked-choice voting has been used successfully in Minneapolis and St. Paul for a decade, and in St. Louis Park since last year. And momentum for ranked-choice voting is growing across the country. It is used in big and small cities, in blue and red states, from California to Utah to Maine. New York City will begin using ranked-choice voting next year. Maine is using ranked-choice voting for elections at the state and national level, including for the presidential election this year. Voters in Massachusetts and Alaska have ballot measures this fall to adopt.

Ranked-choice voting is a popular and proven reform that enables a more representative and responsive government. Having elected officials who are accountable to majority concerns will help break through the gridlock and dysfunction that is preventing action on so many issues. It offers the opportunity to transform our politics to one based not on division, but collaboration. We urge Bloomington voters to join us in voting yes on 3 for ranked-choice voting. For more information, visit

Calbone is the chair and Marcia Wattson is the treasurer of The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting Bloomington.

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