Nov. 3 2009


Ranked Choice Voting: Cure For What Ails Us?

There, that wasn’t so hard.

I just left my neighborhood polling station, having completed my first-ever “ranked choice” ballot.

Also called “instant run-off voting” (“IRV”), ranked choice allows voters to prioritize their preferences for each office to be filled.

The math can be daunting, especially for races where there are multiple, open seats (like Minneapolis Park Board).

However, the process itself couldn’t be simpler: you pick your first, second, and third choice, one per column, moving from left to right.


No big deal, right?


If Florida had ranked choice voting in 2000, Al Gore would have been elected President. That’s because the vast majority of Florida voters who supported Ralph Nader would likely have selected Al Gore as their second choice.

When no candidate emerged with 50.1% of the vote, most of Nader’s votes would have automatically been reallocated to Gore, assuring victory.

In fact, taking away the “spoiler factor” is just one of ranked choice’s many benefits:

Low turnout, negative campaigning, minority winners, defensive voting, premature narrowing of candidate options — voters are right to wonder if there isn’t a better way to express their preferences and make their vote count. IRV is that better way.

–George Latimer and Donald Fraser, “The Case for Instant Run-Off Voting is Clear“; Star Tribune (10/30/09)

What makes that endorsement particularly compelling are Latimer’s and Fraser’s “party elder” staus (Latimer is a former St. Paul mayor, Fraser a former Minneapolis mayor and long-time Congressman).

Needed: A More Open System

It’s one thing for people currently frozen out of the system to argue for change; it’s entirely another for the reigning incumbents to acknowledge that (structural) change is long overdue.

I’m a huge fan of ranked choice voting.

Anyone who’s tired of today’s dysfunctional, political duopoly — each supported by and captive to their own special interests — should be, too.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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