Arvonne Fraser: Re-think Ranked-Choice Voting

The following letter-to-the-editor by Arvonne Fraser was published in a recent issue of the Star-tribune:


The fact that there’s a tryout is telling

Something is wrong when the process of voting is made so complex that Minneapolis has to buy new voting machines and host lunch-hour educational sessions to explain the process. The Star Tribune’s well-meaning explanatory editorial (“Try ranked-choice before Nov. 5 voting,” Sept. 13): laments the fact that few people show up for these educational sessions and urges us to bone up on this new ranked-choice voting system.

With 35 candidates for mayor and no primary election to weed the field down, voters might well answer they don’t have time to bone up on the process as well as on the candidates. Advocates of RCV argue that not having a primary saves the city money and ensures that anyone elected gets 50-percent-plus-one of the votes for that office. But, as I and others fear, with this complex system and the proliferation of candidates, fewer people are going to vote. That majority of the votes cast may be a very small percentage of the potential voters in the city making “50 percent plus one” quite meaningless.

What’s worse with ranked-choice is that the combination of candidates having to appeal to voters for those second and third votes and to stand out in a crowded field may well make these city campaigns more expensive, less substantive and ripe for manipulation.

The educational campaigns for ranked-choice demonstrate the problem. Ranking peanuts, pretzels or popcorn at candidate meetings or parks at the city-sponsored events demeans the whole process.

Elections have consequences. The choices should be clear and the system transparent. After this election, we may have to rethink ranked-choice voting.