Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Ranked-Choice Voting: Minneapolis Data Show People Use It with Sophistication

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Ranked-Choice Voting: Minneapolis Data Show People Use It with Sophistication

Article excerpt

In the May 13 Karen Boros article "Minneapolis political upheaval signals possible major change at City Hall," University of Minnesota Professor Larry Jacobs is quoted as saying "the idea that voters are going to have a detailed understanding of a number of candidates, that they're going to be able to rank them, exceeds any research I've ever seen about voter knowledge." He calls the idea that more than a quarter or third of voters will rank multiple candidates "just unrealistic."

I'm not sure what basis Jacobs has for this assertion, but he's not backed up by reality. And the reality is not hard to find: Just look at the results of the 2009 ranked-choice election in Minneapolis.

A few races went to a second or later round in that election, including Ward 4. Of the 832 people who voted for one of the third- and fourth-place candidates or write-ins, 525 had a second choice counted. That's 63 percent.

Ward 5 also went to a second round. Of the 498 people who voted for one of the candidates who got the fewest votes or write-ins, 352 had a second choice counted. That's 71 percent.

Multiple rounds for Park Board At-Large race

The Park Board At-Large race went to multiple rounds. Of the 36,613 people who had a first choice in that race, 24,957 had at least a second choice. That's 68 percent.

And it's not just the races that went to second rounds. A quick look at the Secretary of State's website shows that for the 13 City Council races, Park Board At-Large, and Mayor, only one race (Cam Gordon's re-election as Council Member for Ward 2) had fewer than one-third as many second choice votes as first-choice votes.

These data point to a completely different and more interesting model of voter intelligence than Jacobs's. Indeed, it seems that voters' choices about whether to use their second-choice rankings were sophisticated and context-sensitive. Were there more than two candidates in a given race? If so, more folks used their second- choices. …

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