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

Sunday, May 18, 2014

City Ballot Filing Fee Increase Proposed Again

The Charter Commission has again proposed that the City Council consider amending the city charter, by unanimous vote, to raise the fee charged to run for office in Minneapolis. The amendment would allow a candidate’s name to appear on the ballot if the candidate files an affidavit of candidacy and either pays the required filing fee or submits a petition in place of the filing fee with the number of signatures for which the Minnesota election law provides, 500 or 5% of the number of people who voted for that office in the last election, whichever is less.  That would translate to about 100-200 signatures for City Council or Park Districts seats and 500 for city wide races like at-large park commissioner, Board of Estimate and Taxation and mayor.

The filing fee is currently $20 for all races and they are proposing that it be increased as follows: for Mayor, $250; for Council member, $100; for Board of Estimate & Taxation member, $20 (no change); and for Park & Recreation commissioner, $50. While I opposed a proposed increase that was higher that they sent us in December of 2013, I am more inclined to support this when it comes to the Council. I am concerned that if this does not pass the Council the Commission will put the higher fee proposal on the ballot in November and then it will pass.

In general I favor an easy, fair and affordable access for candidates to get on the ballot and have found value in Minneapolis’ easy open system.  I think that some of the RCV advocates are concerned that a long ballot might be used as a reason not to support expanding RCV to state offices or to other localities.  I think that if this argument is being made, or will be made, it is not founded in facts.  It is obvious when you compare races in Minneapolis (past and present mayoral races as well as various Council races) that the number of candidates is not related to RCV. Still, I take this concern seriously because I am convinced that the greatest use of RCV would be for state partisan elections, where parties would put their candidates forward through a partisan primary and then the voters could choose among them without fear of “wasting votes” or “spoiling” an election by voting for their preferred candidates rather than a “lesser-than-two-evils” candidate.  This would also prevent people from being elected without a majority of the voters actually indicating a preference for them.

There are a variety of variables that I am trying to sort out and I would welcome your views on this topic. I expect the Intergovernmental Relations Committee to hold a public hearing on this June 5.

As you think about this it might be helpful to consider what an outsider, and clearly biased, leader of election reform efforts, Rob Ritchie, thought the recent use of RCV in the Twin Cities. Rob Ritchie is Executive Director of the FairVote.
As I understand his positions, Ritchie is a big advocate for STV/RCV, easy ballot access and proportional representation.  I tried to find the article online, but was unable to. So I am quoting from it here:

“…Easy ballot access led to 35 mayoral candidates and unusually wide breadth of election choices. Had voters been restricted to backing only one candidate in one election, Minneapolis’ mayor almost certainly would have won with a low plurality of the vote. In Boston’s mayoral race, for example, the first place finisher in its preliminary election received only 18% of the vote --- and while a November runoff elected a majority winner, the price was elimination of all six candidates of color before the higher turnout runoff. … [In Minneapolis] RCV led to the mayoral candidates competing seriously but also positively. Voters elected Betsy Hodges, who earned broad consensus support. Heavily outspent, Hodges didn’t buy a single television ad, instead focusing on direct voter contact and coalition building.

“…Among those elected to the city council’s 13 seats by RCV are the city council’s first Latino, Somali, Hmong Cambodian members….Minneapolis voters overwhelmingly understood and preferred RCV, according to an exit poll by Edison Research. Commentators noted that the political climate had changed from traditional “machine politics” to coalition politics, in which candidates talk to voters more about issues and policy. A local professor called the 2013 mayoral election a “game changer.”

“….In neighboring St. Paul, incumbent Chris Coleman easily defeated three challengers, with RCV allowing that election to take place in one round instead of two. A highly competitive special election led to the election of the city’s first Hmong American. Instructively, two Hmong Americans were able to run without concern of splitting the vote – and the campaign was civil enough that the winner ultimately hired the African American who finished second to work on his council staff.”

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