Ranked-choice voting is confusing, undemocratic and disruptive. In response to the May 28 column in the News Tribune, headlined, “Ranked-choice voting essential to secure democracy for all,” I argue that it should be opposed by anyone who values citizen-run government.
After Minneapolis' inaugural use of ranked-choice voting in 2009, the city paid $50,000 for St. Cloud State University to study how well it worked. The university asked voters whether they understood ranked-choice voting and listed results by "education levels." Amazingly, only 69 percent of the folks who did not have a high school diploma said they fully understood ranked-choice voting while even fewer, 55 percent of voters who had graduate-level degrees, said they fully understood it. Those numbers tell us that a huge fraction of voters didn't know how their votes were being counted and, even more revealing, that the more education voters had, the more confused ranked-choice voting made them.
In a recent ranked-choice voting election in Aspen, Colo., City Council candidate Michael Behrendt was defeated by 75 of his own supporters who ranked him first. Two independent mathematicians calculated that if Behrendt had the foresight to ask 75 of his supporters to rank him second instead of first, he could have won.
Former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson admitted that in ranked-choice voting, “A voter cannot be sure that his or her vote for a candidate will help, rather than hurt, that candidate.”
People who consider the individual voter’s right to political expression to be primary reject the introduction of unintelligible complexity into the counting of votes just so those who seek partisan advantage can make some unprovable claim about fairness.
Duluth needs ranked-choice voting about as much as it needs a hurricane center.
The writer is executive director of the Eden Prairie-based Minnesota Voters Alliance (mnvoters.org).