Pondering “Minnesota’s case study in election imperfection,” one might reasonably wonder about the relevance in 2022 of the uniquely squeaky 2008 election that pitted Al Franken against Norm Coleman for U.S. senator. Tice was careful to note that voter fraud was not the issue in the back-and-forth recount that year; messy and inconsistent handling of mailed ballots was. Nevertheless, we can be certain that “election deniers” read the piece — or glanced at the headline — and were crowing, “See! I told you our elections are unreliable.” (A wise letter in the same edition, “It’s eye-rolling season,” noted that negative campaign ads serve mainly to reinforce existing beliefs, not to persuade. Same idea.) The 2008 election could legitimately have been resolved by a coin flip. It was, statistically, a dead heat — 41.99% for Franken; 41.98% for Coleman. Let ’em arm-wrestle!
But there actually is a lesson from 2008, indicated by that (approximately) 42%-42% tie: Neither candidate was close to a majority. Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley was an also-ran that year, and he garnered 15.15% of the vote. A runoff election between Franken and Coleman would have been much faster and more satisfactory than the months of squabbling and appeals to the courts. (Georgia has runoff elections. Why can’t Minnesota?) Lacking an actual runoff, ranked-choice voting would have redistributed Barkley’s 15+% (and the small percents of other candidates) and determined a majority outcome. RCV has demonstrated in Twin Cities mayoral races that it works and is easy to use. We should employ it for other races to assure majority results.
David S. Miller, Minneapolis