By Kathy Kranz, Co-Chair, Senate District 50 Republicans
Very late in the evening at the Bloomington City Council Meeting on May 18th, the teleconferenced City Council, after minimal discussion among the council members and a phone-only public comment session, voted unanimously to forward the ordinance recommendation for a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) Amendment on to the Charter Commission. Some council members said by approving this ordinance, they were passing on the responsibility to the voters to decide for themselves.
Per the staff briefing, timing was crucial if the council wanted to get this on the November 2020 ballot: The Charter Commission has 60-90 days to develop ballot wording that must be approved and submitted by mid-August to appear on the ballot. If the Charter Amendment is approved by 51% of the voters, it will be effective for future Mayoral and City Council elections.
The City Charter is Bloomington’s Constitution. Changing the way we vote in our community should not to be taken lightly. In our view, this should NOT be pushed to the November 2020 ballot without further public discussions and debate.
Please consider getting involved in this critical issue now. Send letters, emails and phone calls to all council members prior to June 1st, requesting that they revisit the decision. Contact charter commission members prior to June 11th. Send letters-to-the-editor. Expressing your concern about the rush to change our voting method will let them know now is the time to slow this down and really vet such a crucial process.
The city council and charter commission need to hear from you this week. Some have stated many times they have not heard from the other side of the issue. Whether this is true or not is up for debate.
Our previous Newsletter article included additional information about RCV. You can view the May 18 City Council discussion and public comments CLICK HERE The RCV discussion is agenda item 8.5 and starts at 3 hours 37 minutes into the meeting (i.e., after 10:30 PM). Public comment ran thru time-mark 4 hours 26 minutes, with Mayor and council comments after.
Here’s a little history on the City’s narrow research of RCV, based on a search on the city’s website. A year ago, in the May 16, 2019 City Council/Charter Commission meeting, there was some discussion on RCV. Information was presented by staff as to their perception of the advantages of RCV but no mention of any downside to the city or disadvantages to the voter. Staff was directed on next steps for this discussion. Former-Mayor Winstead suggested having additional study meetings on the topic. However, a search of both City Council Minutes and Charter Commission Minutes on the City’s website found no further public RCV presentations or information. Other organizations were active during the summer before the 2019 Municipal elections. The League of Women Voters along with FairVoteMN hosted several promotional opportunities for citizens to support Ranked Choice Voting, and candidates/council members appeared in support. The seriousness of the topic for charter action and consideration was fleeting at best.
Now, in this time when only essential and necessary business should be considered, why is this change so urgent?
The council should ask staff to present all the fully vetted details of what implementing this voting system would bring to the city, both pro and con. Look at the careful, detailed examination the council is provided by staff when they present a request by a resident who asks for a variance. The scrutiny for home and property owners is daunting. The same holds true when Walser wants to build a parking ramp, or Village Club provides an update on their expansion, or plans are presented for Lyndale Retrofit. The list goes on with examples of how detailed the staff departments are on various other public hearing proposals. Why are staff not presenting both pros and cons now regarding Ranked Choice Voting? Why is the council barely asking questions, such as:
• What are the costs of implementing RCV?
• What are the estimated savings from not running a primary, and how often would that occur given that RCV does NOT apply for federal offices, state offices, county offices or school board.?
• Is the integrity of the voting machines enough to ensure a fair recalculation and redistribution of rankings?
• Has RCV demonstrated consistent increased voter turnout in off-year elections for other cities?
• What were voter reactions in cities that have implemented RCV?
• Some cities have rescinded RCV. What were their reasons?
Currently, on the City’s website, a general page of Ranked Choice Voting FAQs gives a non-specific overview about RCV in Bloomington. At the end of this page, there is a Note that reads:
“If there is a ballot question on Ranked Choice Voting presented to the voters at the November 2020 general election, additional information and educational materials about Ranked Choice Voting will be provided on this page.”
Based on past experience, the City’s posting of “additional information and educational materials” has been no substitute for a hearing/debate in an open public forum. RCV is not addressing an emergency that needs to be rushed to a Charter Commission meeting on June 11th.