Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here: http://secondward.blogspot.com/2006/05/disclaimer.html#links

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ranked Choice Voting - 2009 Implementation

Last Friday, the Council took an important step towards IRV/STV implementation in 2009 by directing staff to prepare a Request for Proposals (RFP) for voting equipment capable of running our Single Transferable Vote/Ranked Choice election.

As both a City Council Member and as a proponent of better voting methods, including the Single Transferable Vote method the voters of Minneapolis approved in 2006, I was disappointed that Saturday's Star Tribune article didn't focus on this concrete step, but instead focused on comments from the Minneapolis Director of Elections that she doesnt believe the City will be ready with ranked-choice voting election equipment for 2009.

While I admit we are behind schedule and that it may have been a mistake to rely so heavily on State or County assistance for our implementation, I am convinced that it is still quite possible to hold a Ranked ChoiceIRV/STV election 2009. This month we are taking two important steps that move us closer to making 2009 implementation possible, even without a hand count. First, we directed our head of the Elections Department, to draft a formal Request for Proposals and report back to Council in April. We have already identified voting equipment vendors who will likely be interested in responding to our request. We could use central scan machines to supplement the existing precinct scanners. We could rent precinct scanners, rather than buying them. We should also keep in mind that the philanthropic community has expressed willingness tohelp Minneapolis fund a viable option.

Additionally, at the City Council meeting on March 21st, we will formally begin the process of adopting our own rules governing Ranked Choice Voting. Using the Secretary of States Ranked Choice Work Group's rules recommendations, we are already well on our way. I expect that City rules will be adopted sometime this summer.

In terms of the voting equipment, the reality is that we still have several workable options to consider but that we cannot look at the real capabilities and costs until we have real proposals. Through the RFP, we will be taking the next step to find out what real possibilities exist and how much they will cost. We should not rely on worst-case scenarios, based on self-serving general estimates provided by the vendor community. We need concrete proposals evaluated based on clear criteria established though the RFP process.

It's frustrating to me that the Star Tribune chose to focus on one cautionary City staff person's predictions, rather than the important step the Council took last Friday. The real story is that the Council has voted to go forward with an RFP for 2009 implementation, that we will be drafting our own rules andvoting them into ordinance this spring or summer and that we are committed toholding our first ranked choice election in 2009 unless and until the Council determines that it is impossible. And that will be a City Council determination, based, at least in part, on both information we get from our professional staff and our constituents as well as what we learn through theRFP process.

The real question here is not about the possibilities, but the political will to pursue them.

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