Minneapolis was giving ranked choice voting a big test on Tuesday as voters came to the polls to select not just one mayoral candidate out of a field of 35 candidates, but picking their second and third choices as well.
Under ranked choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, voters select their favorite, but also can pick a second choice and more. If a candidate receives a majority of the vote in the first count, he or she wins. If no one gets more than 50 percent, however, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated, and his or her votes are divided among the remaining candidates, according to the second or third choices on their ballots. The process repeats until one candidate gets the majority of the support.
There are some pluses to this system. It reduces the need for primary, or runoff votes ahead of time, and assures voters that their votes will not go to waste. Even voters who support an unpopular candidate can have an effect on the outcome. It does away with the election of a candidate by a plurality. A lot of our statewide elected officials in recent years have not been supported by a majority.
There are possible problems as well. We all want to get our election results as quickly as possible. Will the counting and recounting slow things down too much? Will the system confuse voters?
The Minneapolis elections will give the state its best chance so far to see how the system will work in a big election.