Efforts to secure a recount of the votes cast for Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in Bloomington ran into several obstacles last week that appear insurmountable.
As we mentioned in our last newsletter, the RCV question on the Bloomington ballot only passed by 0.19% over the 51% threshold required to change the Bloomington city charter. By state statute, a voter may request a recount at state expense if the difference between the “Yes” votes and the “No” votes is less than 0.5%. However, the Recount Statute was written with candidate elections and ballot questions in mind that require a simple majority to win (50% +1 vote). It does not consider questions that require 51% to win.
The City of Bloomington required the requesters to file a bond or cash of over $12,000 within less than four days if they wanted to proceed with the recount. Many people were willing to donate to the effort, but ultimately it was not possible to raise enough in the short time available.
As an alternative to cash, several Bloomington residents who had been trained as Election Judges volunteered their time and expertise to perform the recount. This offer was made to the city as a way to reduce the cost. On Friday evening, November 20, Bloomington’s Assistant City Manager responded,
“The City of Bloomington conducts all election-related activities in strict conformance with state law. All election related tasks are performed by paid City employees under the direction of the recount official, the City Clerk. We are not willing to deviate from that standard and use volunteers.”
The Bloomington voters who sought the recount are specifically concerned with the count of the absentee ballots. Votes against RCV on Election Day exceeded votes for RCV by 58% to 42%. However, virtually two-thirds of the total ballots were cast absentee, before Election Day, and they went for RCV 57% to 43%
It should be noted that the Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA) has filed a suit against the City of Minneapolis for using city employees rather than election judges in counting absentee ballots. In essence, MVA has cited Minneapolis for implementing a system that is contrary to the intent of the legislature and the will of the people, one in which they simply appoint city staff to accept and reject ballots behind closed doors without any citizen election judge oversight or party balance.
MVA Executive Director Andy Cilek said, “Minneapolis is not alone in its abuse of the law. The policy of Secretary of State Steve Simon has enabled jurisdictions throughout the state to do much the same as Minneapolis. As the state’s chief election official, he bears major responsibility for this systemic failure to protect mailed-in ballots from potential mistreatment.”
Depending on the outcome of the MVA suit against Minneapolis, there may be a precedent that the Bloomington Assistant City Clerk should consider. In the meantime, Bloomington will need to contend with Ranked Choice Voting in its 2021 municipal elections.