In Minnesota, in every election cycle for the past two decades or longer, we have seen major political races won by candidates securing less than majority (50%) of the vote. Think Governor Ventura and Senator Franken and Governor Pawlenty and others. Again, this year, two races stand out. The first a multiple-candidate special election to replace First Congressional District Representative Jim Hagedorn. There were 10 Republicans competing against each other on the primary ballot — and similarly eight Democrats. In the tight Republican primary, Brad Finstad prevailed with just 38% of the vote.
The second is the highly competitive state auditor race, where, in this case, two marijuana party candidates split the vote. Those two candidates drew 5.4% of the vote, resulting in a very tight outcome between candidates Julie Blaha who won with 47.5% over Ryan Wilson with 41.5% of the vote.
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is the solution to this pervasive problem. RCV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate earns majority support outright — which is unlikely in tight races with multiple candidates — then the candidate with the least support is eliminated, and those ballots transfer to those voters’ second choices. This instant runoff continues until one candidate reaches a majority and wins.
Ranked Choice Voting would eliminate the spoiler problem where the presence of multiple parties often results in the winning candidate securing well less than majority support. Importantly, it would require candidates to have wider support within their own party in partisan primaries and among the general electorate in November.
In my view, RCV is the antidote to our nation’s growing polarizations and extremism. As RCV state Alaska has just shown by electing Democratic Congresswoman Mary Peltola and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, the RCV process tends to reward those candidates with a positive vision and the ability to build broad, inclusive majority coalitions.
I urge Minnesota legislators to pass this important and achievable reform this session and lead the nation in building a strong and thriving democracy for all.