To the Editor:
Minnetonka held its first election with ranked-choice voting. Did it measure up to expectations?
We had 12 total candidates for three offices, the most ever for a Minnetonka City Council election. With a shorter campaign season and no primary election, it was simpler to run for office. These candidates represented the entire political and demographic spectrum. And even with all these choices and a single voting day, all three winning candidates received a true majority of support because of the “instant runoff” element of ranked-choice voting.
Voter turnout increased dramatically! It was 50% higher than the average for Minnetonka City Council’s elections, the second highest in the history of the city, and the most of the past 10 city council elections. The many choices and greater competition made voters more aware of the election, more likely to find candidates that appealed to their values, and more motivated to vote.
Long-term election expenses will go down because the city will never hold another primary election – which historically attracted only 4% of voters anyway. While there were some one-time educational expenses to communicate the change to ranked-choice voting, these costs shouldn’t persist into future elections because the city staff, candidates and election judges did such a thorough job of educating voters and most materials can be reused.
There was some evidence that ranked-choice voting increased campaign civility. It took time for candidates to adjust to the new way of campaigning, and for groups and individuals to realize they could endorse more than one candidate per office, since voters aren’t limited to one choice and could rank three people for each office. But ultimately, the winning candidates focused their messages on their positions and positive values, not on attacking other candidates. A good lesson learned!
We stood outside several polling locations, speaking with residents after they voted. Many were voting in their first city council election. Without exception, voters of all ages and backgrounds found ranking candidates to be easy. More than anything, people were excited about our local democracy. We’re grateful to everyone who participated in it!
David Haeg and Barb Westmoreland