What Ranked Voting Actually Does

Political scientists are quick to remind people to “Beware the unintended consequences,” as will we. Here is little understanding of the ills of Ranked Choice Voting.

If you read articles explaining the process of Ranked Choice Voting and if it were so darn simple, why do people need to keep writing these public service articles explaining the process? Today in MinnPost, is a primer The lazy person’s guide to ranked-choice voting in Minneapolis and St. Paul and last week was the following story Has ranked-choice voting lived up to its promise in the Twin Cities?

We will say this now and to be clear, whatever the result in each contest Minneapolis or St Paul, the overall vote total will need to be reduced by the number of votes that are dropped from the ballot. Dropped from the ballot you say and we say yes. If a voter selects a candidate who does not come in either 1st or 2nd place as their final choice, their vote is effectively tossed aside. In Minneapolis, it is called an Exhausted Vote and in St Paul, the term is an Unassigned Vote.

The basic gist is these people need not have even shown up to vote and they played no role in the final outcome so we call on people, to be honest, and report the “Effective Vote.” Take the first-round vote total subtract the votes that didn’t matter in the end and report the result. Because this is the truth.

This will likely mean there is no majority victor in either city and the size of the voter turnout is also effectively reduced.

Ramsey County Elections Director Joe Mansky must be the eternal optimist. He is quoted in the Pioneer Press expecting 58,000 voters when the last two mayoral elections have shown 31,175 in 2013 (With Ranked Voting) and 34, 411 in 2009 (Without Ranked Voting).

He may be going back to the yesteryears of contested elections in St Paul. When we look at the Wayback machine we see the following. The 2001 St Paul Mayoral open seat contest between Randy Kelly (DFL) and Jay Benanav (DFL) the vote total was 59,235. In the 2005 St Paul Mayoral Contest between Randy Kelly (DFL) incumbent and challenger Chris Coleman, the vote total was 59,154.

We inquired why Mansky would expect such a dramatic result and learned his numbers are 25% of the eligible voters, not the registered voters. This is something we would expect as well if it were a hard-fought two-person contest. Where each side defines its candidate and the other side seeks to differentiate their candidate from the opponent.

While the population of the Capitol City has increased by a significant margin, the number of registered voters have remained virtually flat. Today, there are 156,535 pre-registered voters with the same day still occurring. In 2015, there were 151,966 registered voters with 1290 same day, 2013, 156,231 registered voters of which 1280 registered the same day, and in 2011 156,482 with 1513 same day.

As we have said we expect between a 28.7 to a 26.8% turnout of the registered voters which will result in a total vote of between 45-42,000 voters. Again, if the numbers are higher than the Effective Voters must be taken into account.

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