Ranked-Choice Voting Likely to Delay Results

November 06, 2017 08:08 PM

The mayoral races in Minneapolis and St. Paul feature more than two dozen candidates and no clear front-runner in either city.

But If you're anxious to find out the winner on Tuesday, don't get your hopes up.


"Ranked-choice voting" in both cities likely means we won't see clear-cut winners on election night.

"It's a complicated mess that voters have to deal with," says DFL strategist Darin Broton. 

VOTE 2017: Minnesota Voter Guide

In Minneapolis, 16 candidates are on the ballot in the mayoral race and voters will be asked to rank up to three candidates in order of preference. Election officials there say it could be a day or two before a winner is determined. In St. Paul, where 10 candidates are running for mayor, voters can rank up to six candidates, which could take until Saturday to sort out.

The system for counting votes is similar in both cities. After each round of ballot counting where no candidate gets at least 50 percent plus one vote, candidates with no mathematical chance of winning are eliminated. Voters who selected the eliminated candidate as a first choice then have their votes added to the total of their next choice. That process continues until a winner is determined.

How RCV Works

  • Ranked-choice voting describes voting systems that allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference, and then uses those rankings to elect candidates able to combine strong first choice support with the ability to earn second and third choice support.
  • RCV is straightforward for voters: rank candidates in order of choice. Voters can rank as many candidates as they want, without fear that ranking others will hurt the chances of their favorite candidate. Exit polls and ballot analyses from ranked choice voting elections demonstrate that voters overwhelmingly understood how to rank candidates.
  • How the votes are counted depends on whether RCV is used to elect a single office, like a mayor or governor, or if it is used to elect more than one position at once, like for a city council or state legislature or for Congress in a multi-winner district.

- information from FairVote.org

Voters can just vote for one candidate if they choose, but proponents of ranked-choice voting say they risk not having a say in the election outcome.

"Don't waste your vote," says Jeanne Massey of FairVote Minnesota, "because if your first choice is eliminated, that candidate can't come back. You just want to make sure you have a backup. If your favorite candidate is defeated early in that runoff, your ballot will continue to count and influence the outcome."

At Issue: Nov. 5 - Mayoral Candidates Debate in Minneapolis, St. Paul; Is Ranked-Choice Voting Worth It?

Massey says software will eventually be certified in Minnesota that will enable Minneapolis and St. Paul to count votes much more quickly, and determine winners on election night. In the meantime, she says, it's better than the old method of holding two elections -- a primary and then a general election.

"People stopped participating in primaries," she says of city elections. "They were costly, unrepresentative and very low turnout. So this rolled the primary into the general, so we essentially conduct an instant runoff."

But again, it won't exactly be "instant."


Tom Hauser

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


Victims IDed as Hurricane Michael Recovery Effort Drags On

No Mega Millions Winner, Jackpot Climbs to $1.6 Billion

Competitive Cycling Picks Up Traction in High Schools Around the State

Flurries Early Saturday, Sunny and Cold Later On

Danny Heinrich Victim Testifies in Civil Trial

St. Paul Fire Officials Urge People To Stay Out of Caves