Sun Current – Incumbents retain seats in Bloomington’s city, school elections

Published on November 12, 2021

Original Publication


It took three days of hand counting to determine that the leaders on Election Day were the winners, but Bloomington completed its first ranked-choice voting election for its City Council on Saturday.


By contrast, with four Bloomington School Board seats up for election, the three incumbents were among the winners on Election Day, as that race was decided without ranked-choice voting.


Voters across the city had at least one City Council race on their ballot. The at-large seat on this year’s ballot will remain with Councilmember Nathan Coulter, who had a healthy lead when the first round of balloting was counted Nov. 2. Incumbent Patrick Martin also retained his seat, in District 4.


With no incumbent in the District 3 race, voters had four candidates to choose from. Lona Dallessandro will fill the seat in January.


All three races were decided following a second round of tabulations, despite Dallessandro and Martin receiving more than 50% of the votes cast by the close of the election. Undervotes and overvotes in the race are not tallied in the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website results on Election Day, and when those ballots are added into the ballot counts, it left all three candidates short of the threshold for winning. The winners need 50% of the ballot total, plus one, to win the seat.


The School Board election had 10 candidates seeking four seats, and incumbents Beth Beebe, Tom Bennett and Dawn Steigauf retained their seats. It was guaranteed that the board would see at least one newcomer, to be seated in January. That lone newcomer will be Matt Dymoke.


City Council


Ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, allows voters to rank their choices for each seat on the Bloomington City Council ballot. On election night, first-choice votes are counted. If no candidate has more than 50% of the votes, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. Voters who picked the eliminated candidate as their first choice have their second-choice vote counted instead, if a second choice had been made. The process repeats until one candidate has a majority of the remaining ballots.


With no candidate winning the election on Nov. 2, the city began its hand tabulation of second-choice votes on Thursday, Nov. 4, wrapping up the process during the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 6. The hand count included tabulating ballots that carried a write-in candidate as the voter’s first choice, and not all voters express a second choice on their ballot.


Undervotes occur when a voter casts a vote in one race, but not another. Overvotes occur when a voter incorrectly marks more than once choice in a column. Ballot machines scan the ballot when they are accepted, and notify an election judge if there is an error in any section of the ballot. The voter has an opportunity to correct the error or waive it off and allow the correct portions of the ballot to stand. And overvotes may result from absentee ballots that are mailed in, which therefore doesn’t provide an opportunity for the voter to make a correction when the ballot is scanned, according to City Clerk Christina Scipioni.


Undervotes far outnumbered overvotes in each race, with no overvotes being cast in the District 4 race.


The at-large race was the final race to be tallied, and was the only race for which election judges had to sort and tabulate the more than 15,000 votes cast across the city.


On election night, Coulter was leading with 7,127 votes, or 46.9% of votes cast. Challenger Paul King was second at 4,653, with Ric Oliva in third at 3,394. The first-choice voting included 22 write-in votes, 290 undervotes and 18 overvotes, meaning a candidate needed 7,753 votes in the first round.


Reallocation of write-in ballots and Oliva’s ballots in the second round gave Coulter 8,084 votes, or 56.5 percent of the ballots, securing his second term on the council. King’s 6,011 first- and second-choice votes gave him 43.4% of the ballots.


The District 3 seat represents the north and west precincts in Bloomington. Dallessandro appeared to have won the seat on election night, based upon the vote totals posted by the secretary of state. Her 2,326 votes gave her 51.7% of the votes cast. But the undervotes and overvotes, totaling 212, accounted for 4.5% of the ballots in the district. That lowered Dallessandro’s total to 49.4% of the ballot total, prompting a hand tabulation on Nov. 4, which ended that afternoon with Dallessandro receiving 51.66 percent of the vote, defeating her closest challenger, David Clark, who received 35.8% of the vote.


Kevin Heinen and Laura Hunt were also on the ballot, and each received about 6% of the votes cast.


The District 4 seat, representing north and east precincts, had Martin receiving 50.02% of the votes on election night. Those 1,228 votes were one more than half of the total votes cast, but 97 undervotes left him at 48.1% of the total ballots in his district.


The hand tabulation and reallocation of ballots ended during the morning of Nov. 5 with Martin receiving more than 56.6% of the vote total, defeating runner-up Victor Rivas, who finished with 43.3% of the votes. Becky Strohmeier was in third place on election night with 8.5% of the vote, while Angella Coil finished fourth with 6.8% of the vote on election night.


School board


Voters across the school district could vote for up to four of 10 candidates on their ballot. Bennett finished atop the field with 7,876 votes. He was chosen on 14.8% of ballots cast in the election.


Steigauf finished second with 6,936 votes, the choice of 13% of the voters. Dymoke and Beebe were nearly equal in their support. Dymoke received 6,730 votes; Beebe received 6,702.


Of the six candidates who did not win election, Dani Indovino Cawley came the closest. She received 5,887 votes.


The remaining candidates and vote totals: Natalie Marose, 5,700; Jeff Salovich, 5,401; Marquisha Fulford, 4,046; Patricia Riley, 2,137; Kat Eggers, 1,798.

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