Ranked Choice Voting Wins Again in Historic Local Minnesota Elections

Published on November 4, 2021

For Immediate Release

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


Ranked Choice Voting Wins Again in Historic Local Minnesota Elections


Minneapolis/St. Paul (November 4, 2021) – 2021 is a historic year for Ranked Choice Voting in Minnesota. Bloomington, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, St. Louis Park, and St. Paul all used RCV for their municipal elections. Never before have we had five Minnesota cities – representing 16 percent of Minnesota voters – conducting ranked-choice elections at the same time. These elections were among the more than 30 cities using RCV for local elections this year. 


While winning candidates are still to be decided in some races, it is clear that the biggest winners of Tuesday’s local elections were the voters and the democratic process, thanks in large part to Ranked Choice Voting. By eliminating the summer primary, voters in these five cities only had to go to the polls once and were rewarded with a diverse slate of candidates and issue-focused campaigns. Voters, in turn, came out in much higher numbers; Minneapolis had the highest voter turnout in over 45 years. FairVote Minnesota (“FVMN”), the leading nonpartisan nonprofit educating voters in the state about RCV, thanks and applauds election officials in all five cities for running a smooth, transparent and fair process. 


Voter turnout increased – again


Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) has been used in Minneapolis since 2009, in St. Paul since 2011, St. Louis Park since 2019, and in Bloomington and Minnetonka for the first time this year.  At a time when turnout in municipal elections nationally is typically around 15-20 percent of eligible voters, FVMN is proud to report that more than 145,046 voters came out to cast a ballot in Minneapolis, a turnout of 54 percent, up from 43 percent in the  the last election cycle, which was up 10 percentage points from the election cycle in 2013, which exceeded turnout by 13 percentage points from the cycle before that.


Minnetonka, which used RCV for the first time this fall and for years had municipal general election turnout rates typically in the teens, saw a voter participation increase to a nearly historic 28 percent, up from 20.5 percent in 2017 and the highest since 2001, when voter participation soared in the wake of September 11th. In Bloomington, turnout was 26 percent, up slightly from 25 percent in the previous at-large city council election in 2017. Over 59,000 voters weighed in on the St. Paul election, a turnout of 34.6 percent, a high turnout, but slight drop since 2017 with a mayor’s race featuring an incumbent that was not competitive. 


While St. Louis Park did not see increased participation, its turnout is likely attributable to the lack of any competition in all but the Ward 3 race which was decided by RCV.  Of course, effective voter participation increased for all of these cities – including St. Louis Park – in comparing turnout before RCV was implemented since RCV eliminates the low-turnout August primary, and more voters participate in a single, decisive general election in November.


While the Minneapolis ballot measure on policing (City Question 2) certainly had an impact on voter turnout, the robust competition and wide array of candidate choices made possible by RCV and elimination of the costly, low-turnout primary, helped drive this surge in voter participation. Indeed, there were more votes for mayor than for the ballot measure, showing that RCV and the competition it encourages were a critical factor in turnout as well. By eliminating the primary, RCV levels the playing field, allowing more candidates and a more diverse array of candidates to jump in the race, fostering competition and allowing all sides of the political spectrum on policing and a whole host of issues to be represented and have their voices heard, without fear of spoilers or splitting the vote.


RCV diversified the candidate pool.


Tuesday’s elections demonstrated the power of giving voters more choice. In all five cities, there were diverse and deep slates of candidates that would not have been possible under the old primary-general election system. Candidates presented diversity on all levels – ethnicity, gender, age, and political beliefs. The competition fostered engaging, rich, complex, and important conversations about the future of our cities across all the local races. And RCV demonstrated its power not just to encourage candidates of color to jump in the race, but also to win. For the first time in history, a majority of Minneapolis city council members will be people of color. 


RCV rewards candidates who focus on the issues and build broad coalitions of support.


The candidates who win ranked-choice elections are those who build the broadest coalitions of voter support. In most cases, the winning candidate emerges with a majority of support from initial ballots cast, and in some cases, the winning candidate will have a majority of support in ballots continuing in the final round. In the Minneapolis mayoral race for example, Mayor Frey received 56 percent of the votes continuing in the final round, and just over 49 percent of the vote among initial ballots cast. The value of RCV is that candidates must reach beyond their base for second and third choice votes and campaign towards that majority, and they do that by focusing on the issues important to voters, presenting their positive vision for the city and refraining from attacking their opponents. 




Ranked-choice elections went smoothly in all five cities. Most results were available either on election night in cases where candidates won a majority or winning threshold in first-choice votes, or the very next day when tabulation was required. Since Bloomington chose the manual hand count process and all races are requiring RCV tabulation, results likely will not be available until later this week. When fully automated software available in other parts of the country is approved by the state, we can expect even faster election results in future elections.


The results are completed for all the cities except for Bloomington. They can be found on the citys’ websites: 


“FairVote Minnesota extends its congratulations to Minneapolis Mayor-Elect Jacob Frey,  St. Paul Mayor-Elect Melvin Carter, and Minnetonka Mayor-Elect Brad Wiersum. Carter and Wiersum accomplished outright victories, and Frey won with 56 percent of ballots continuing in the final round,” said FVMN Executive Director Jeanne Massey. “All the candidates ran voting-getting, issue-oriented campaigns. That approach helped them – and winning council candidates – to build broad coalition support and demonstrated the benefit of reaching out for second and third choices, in addition to first choices.” 


Tuesday night’s elections saw several races result in majority winners outright, including the St. Paul and Minnetonka mayoral races and several Minneapolis City Council races, along with a number of races that went into second and later rounds. The winners in all RCV races across the metro area will have won with the broadest possible voter support than would have been the case under the old first-past-the-post system. 


Ranked Choice Voting is a win for democracy.


The outcomes of Tuesday’s elections prove that RCV works. It fosters healthy competition; enables participation from more – and more diverse – candidates that represent more constituents, which in turn encourages more voters to turnout; punishes attack campaigning; and eliminates the anti-democratic specters of spoilers and wasted votes. In a ranked-choice election, candidates are motivated to reach out for second and third choice votes, and voters express their preferences by ranking their ballots. This process gives the winner a stronger mandate with which to govern and holds the winner accountable to a much broader constituency. 


What’s next?


FairVote Minnesota will release further analysis about voters’ experience and the success and impact of RCV on these local elections and on those across the country as more data become available. We will also continue the statewide conversation to allow more cities to adopt this reform if they choose and how RCV can improve our state and federal elections.


For questions or interviews, contact Jeanne Massey (Jeanne.Massey@fairvotemn.org; 612-850-6897).

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