Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Minneapolis gets ready to return to primary elections in case they lose their IRV suit!

Minneapolis is one of those places that IRV advocates point to as a place where IRV was chosen by voters in landslide referendum wins.

But it's not popular with everyone. A local election group took the city to court challenging the constitutionality of IRV. IRV advocates are confident they will win in court. But not everyone is so confident. So Minneapolis is getting ready to let them do runoff elections in case they lose in court.
Return of primary requested, just in case

The City Council unanimously approved a measure that puts the city on track to make a September primary election possible, just in case Minneapolis needs one.

Currently, there’s expected to be no primary. That’s because this year’s municipal election is set to use ranked-choice, or instant-runoff, voting.

RCV lets voters rank their top three candidates in each race. In single-seat elections, any candidate wins by getting 50 percent of the votes plus one right off the bat; if no one reaches that threshold, second- and third-choice votes could get weighed. The process eliminates the need for
a primary.

While voters approved RCV for use in this year’s election back in 2006, a lawsuit has thrown a potential wrench in the city’s plans. The Minnesota Voters Alliance, a citizens’ group, is questioning RCV’s constitutionality, arguing the system doesn’t equate to one person, one vote.

The case has traveled to the state Supreme Court, where arguments will be heard May 13. A ruling is expected in early June, according to city documents.

It’s important for the city to get as quick an answer as possible — if the court ruled against RCV, the city would need to bring back a primary, something that’s easier said than done. Currently there is no language in the city’s charter directing how to hold a primary that Minneapolis voters are used to; that was eliminated along with the 2006 approval of RCV.

That’s why the City Council is requesting to re-amend the charter. In other words, were the Supreme Court to deliver an unfavorable ruling, Minneapolis would be prepared.

On June 9, the city’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee also will weigh whether it should be able to reinstate a primary for another reason: if RCV turns out to be just plain too difficult.

Minneapolis is set to make history by being the first municipality in the world to hand-count a ranked-choice multiple-seat election, elections Director Cynthia Reichert has said. That process was tested May 6-7 by elections staff. An official report has yet to be given on the experience, but Council Member Paul Ostrow (4th Ward) has some concerns.

“What I’ve heard is that hand-counting of the at-large seats is extraordinarily challenging,” he said.

But other council members already have said they don’t feel comfortable making that a reason to altogether abandon the new system. Council Member Cam Gordon (2nd Ward) said he would only support a primary if RCV were found to be unconstitutional.

Extraordinarily challenging? You ain't seen nothing yet - they say it could take weeks to count!

We figured out here in NC that if we had one statewide race that went to IRV in our 2008 May primary, it would have taken 7 weeks to count. And that counting could only start AFTER the State Board of Elections certified who came in second out of 4 candidates - since NC did top-two IRV in the 2007 election pilot.

In other words, they'd still be hand tabulating IRV ballots well after the late June primary runoff election already gave the results the night of the election. Some savings of time there!

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