Co-Chair, Senate District 50
On March 16th, the Bloomington City Council voted 7-0 to enact our City Emergency Plan, authorizing our City Manager to manage funds and actions on his own. Jamie Verbrugge, Bloomington City Manager, pledged that evening, “if it doesn’t need to be on the agenda, we’re just going to defer until we feel it’s safe to continue to have meetings in a way that meets our community’s expectations and that’s pretty consistent with what other cities are doing too.”
Unfortunately, Bloomington’s Manager and City Council are taking up matters that could easily be deferred while the City Emergency is in place. On May 18, the City Council will consider an ordinance that would change the way that we elect our mayor and city council members. Our City Charter requires that we elect these officials in a Primary/General election. The City Council is proposing a November ballot question to change the Charter to “Ranked Choice Voting”, or RCV. This could significantly alter the nature of our elections in Bloomington.
There are several factions that are pushing Bloomington to institute RCV. The League of Women Voters, FairVote MN, Dean Phillips, Steve Elkins, MN DFL, the City Manager, the Mayor, and several members of the City Council are just a few. Ironically, they use arguments that recent studies and actual experiences from other cities have contradicted. The League of Women Voters argues that RCV will encourage more lower income and low information voters to participate. (A claim that a survey of St. Cloud voters disproved).
Other proponents argue that our current Primary Plurality System has flaws that have led to the partisan divide in our legislature at the state and national level. However, they are proposing a fix for a problem that does not exist at our city level and could potentially add unnecessary complexity to our voting process.
Just a brief comment on how RCV works. According to Ballotpedia.org quoting FairVote:
“A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority."
Folks, we may not always be happy with our Primary results, but those of us that vote generally go away feeling that we understood who we were voting for and that our vote counted. With RCV
• Some ballots may be weighted more than others and some will be thrown out in the counting process.
• Large numbers of single-issue candidates may be encouraged to run. One Minneapolis Mayoral race had 35+ candidates to consider and rank. Imagine the proliferation of lawn signs for a city election!
• Ballot complexity may actually suppress voting. In a St. Cloud study, 70% of those with less than a high school education said it was “difficult to vote.”
Disenfranchisement – the very thing RCV is claimed to eliminate.
And the list of issues goes on. For more information on the opposition to Ranked Choice Voting, please check out a local Bloomington Facebook page, “No to Ranked-Choice Voting”.
Call to Action. If you agree that this subject is not one that should be decided during the pandemic emergency, when citizen input is severely constrained, please write your Council Member(s), Mayor and the members of the Charter Commission. Please do so before the City Council meeting on May 18.