Duluth News Tribune: In Response: Ranked voting would be more representative, easy to use

Published on April 1, 2021

Liz Johnson and Katie Humphrey in the Duluth News Tribune

When Duluth voted down ranked-choice voting in 2015, there was widespread misinformation about the system. Unfortunately, the News Tribune continued to spread disinformation with its March 15 “Our View” editorial, headlined, “Like Duluth, state can reject confusion of ranked-choice voting.”

We would like to correct misrepresentations and provide accurate information.

First, ranked-choice voting “won’t go away,” as the editorial urged, because voters like it and are demanding it. Already, 16% of Minnesotans use ranked-choice voting for their local elections, and more communities want to use it. This is why there is overwhelming support for ranked-choice voting at the Minnesota Legislature: Bills to adopt it statewide have 40 cosponsors in the House and 15 in the Senate, including Duluth Rep. Liz Olson and Duluth Sen. Jen McEwen. We are proud to count ourselves among the supporters.

Second, the editorial was mistaken in its reporting of the results of elections in Minnesota that have used ranked-choice voting.The reporting process is quick and transparent and not based on an “algorithm.” Public election results show the number of votes and reallocation of votes in each round of counting. First-round election results are available on Election Night, and results for races that require additional rounds of tabulation are available the next day.

For the record, the Duluth City Council did not use ranked-choice voting to conduct a political appointment in 2014, even if it attempted to.

Third, ranked-choice voting is not “confounding” or confusing. Voters simply rank their choices in order of preference — first choice, second choice and so on — something we all have done since we were kids. If a candidate receives a majority (50% plus one) of first-choice votes, that candidate wins. However, if no candidate earns a majority, then the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is defeated, and the ballots count for those voters’ second choices. This process continues until one candidate reaches a majority and wins. Ranked-choice voting ensures winners earn a majority and gives voters more power and more choice.

Across the nation and in Minnesota, voters in urban, rural, red, blue, and purple places are finding ranked-choice voting to be efficient, more representative, and easy to use.

Fourth, the editorial claimed ranked-choice voting allows “crowded fields of unknowns (and) marginal candidates.” No, it doesn’t. What it does is level the playing field and encourage more candidates with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to run and win. We need more competition in our politics, not less.

Finally, for the editorial to cite false allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election as part of arguing to reject ranked-choice voting was, frankly, irresponsible. By raising these spurious allegations, the editorial gave them credence and legitimacy — of which they deserve neither. These false allegations have been roundly refuted in dozens of court cases, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as by secretaries of state of both parties all across the country.

What we need to do is to discourage partisans from lodging such false allegations in the first place — something ranked-choice voting would help us accomplish.

We are at a perilous time in our democracy, with political polarization off the charts and partisans literally attacking the Capitol. Ranked-choice voting would encourage candidates to build broad majority coalitions, would discourage mudslinging, and would encourage civility. This is exactly the reform we need for this moment, and we strongly support its passage at the Legislature.

Liz Johnson of Duluth is deputy director of FairVote Minnesota (fairvotemn.org), which advocates for ranked-choice voting. Katie Humphrey of Duluth is state campaigns director for FairVote Minnesota.

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