FairVote Minnesota Commends Federal Legislation Supporting Expansion of Ranked Choice Voting Nationwide

Published on October 7, 2021

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jeanne Massey, FairVote Minnesota Executive Director, jeanne.massey@fairvotemn.org, 612-850-6897

St. Paul (October 7, 2021) —  FairVote Minnesota (“FVMN”) applauds Representative Dean Phillips (MN-03) and Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Angus King (I-ME) for reintroducing legislation to support local and state governments that are considering or implementing Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). The Voter Choice Act would provide $40 million in federal grants to cover up to fifty percent of the cost for jurisdictions that choose to adopt RCV.

Our politics are becoming so polarized, and one of the main causes is our antiquated plurality voting system that limits voter choice, creates spoiler candidates, fuels negative campaigning, and frequently elects winners opposed by a majority of voters. RCV is a simple change to the way we vote but one that has the powerful potential to transform our politics for the better.

Instead of voting for just one candidate, RCV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference: First choice, second choice, and so on. If a candidate receives a majority of first-choice rankings, that candidate wins. However, if no candidate earns a majority, then the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is defeated, and these ballots now count for those voters’ second choices. This process continues until one candidate reaches a majority and wins. By requiring candidates to build broad majority coalitions, RCV reduces polarization and extremism, encourages positive campaigning and solves the spoiler problem.

“Our democracy is at a crossroads. Amid historic division and partisan rancor, we must take meaningful action to improve our electoral system from the ground up,” said Rep. Phillips. “That is why, as cities, states, and even political parties – both red and blue – have recognized, we need ranked choice voting. RCV is simple, empowers voters, and rewards candidates who broaden support beyond their base. The Voter Choice Act provides financial resources and technical assistance to communities seeking to adopt RCV without imposing a mandate on communities not yet ready for change.”

“In Minnesota and in a growing number of jurisdictions, we are seeing the power of Ranked Choice Voting to incentivize more positive, constructive, and inclusive elections,” said FVMN Executive Director Jeanne Massey. “The Voter Choice Act will help provide the needed funding and expertise to accelerate this promising reform across the country. We are so grateful for Rep. Phillips’ leadership on this democracy reform that could be the key to strengthening our democracy when we need it most.”

In Minnesota’s Third District, Bloomington and Minnetonka will use RCV for local elections for the first time this fall, joining Minneapolis, St. Paul and St. Louis Park. Minnesota has long been a leader on RCV, serving as an example for cities across the country. More than 545,000 ranked choice ballots have been cast in Minnesota since 2009 when Minneapolis first began using the system, and the state’s experience with RCV has been a resounding success. According to multiple exit polls in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and St. Louis Park, voters consistently and overwhelmingly report that RCV creates more civil campaigns and is easy to use, liked, and preferred over the old voting system. 

The Voter Choice Act will be critical as more and more jurisdictions are looking to adopt RCV across the country. By 2022, 50 cities will use RCV for their local elections as well as the states of Maine and Alaska, more than double the number in 2020. And even more jurisdictions will be using RCV in 2023. Minnesota could be the first state in the nation to adopt RCV for state and federal offices through legislation. 

“We are the only divided state legislature in the country, and because of that, you see a lot of division and gridlock, and frankly it’s getting worse,” Senate Minority Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen noted. “We are so polarized and dug into our partisan corners, that it’s difficult to get action on issues that matter to the majority of voters — and that often impacts underrepresented communities the most.” She added, “Now is the time to pass Ranked Choice Voting, a practical and powerful reform to break through the gridlock and ensure elected leaders are responsive to the demands of the community.”

Last session, Rep. Steve Elkins introduced, along with 34 co-authors, HF 89 in the Minnesota House, and Senator Kent Eken introduced companion bill SF 218 with colleagues in the Senate. The bill would implement RCV in primary and general elections for state and federal offices and would allow local jurisdictions to adopt RCV if they choose. 

Reps. Cedrick Frazier (HF 1375) and Esther Agbaje (HF 2567) introduced identical clone bills in the House, and Sens. Lindsey Port (SF 1651) and Mary Kunesh (SF 2159) did the same in the Senate. With a total of three bills in each chamber and 62 co-authors, RCV legislation has the most authors in the 2021 legislative session, demonstrating broad support for the measure. 

Senator Eken, chief author of the bill in the Senate and a former American History teacher, outlined its numerous benefits: “Ranked Choice Voting allows for more choice, greater participation, and encourages candidates to build majority coalitions and focus on policy solutions rather than attacking each other.”

“We urgently need to take steps to elect leaders more broadly accountable and responsible to the majority, and Ranked Choice Voting makes that happen,” emphasized State Representative Cedrick Frazier, one of the lead authors on the RCV for Minnesota bills in the Minnesota House. “I will continue to work for its passage because we must build a multiracial democracy that is truly representative of all our citizens. And I am grateful for Congressman Phillip’s efforts to help our cities and state make the transition to Ranked Choice Voting.”

Please contact Jeanne Massey for more information about Ranked Choice Voting and our other electoral reform efforts in Minnesota. 

See Rep. Phillips press release here. The text of the legislation is available here.

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