One week away from the mayoral election next Tuesday, November 5 — the first one in 20 years without an incumbent mayor running — I know some people are nervous or confused about two facts: the fact that there are 35 candidates for mayor on the ballot, and the fact that we’re using a new voting system called ranked-choice voting. But these two facts — the 35 candidates on the ballot and ranked-choice voting — are in fact very different. I believe we should raise the bar for allowing candidates the privilege of appearing on the ballot, but I believe we should be excited about and embrace the ability to rank our candidates. I’ll tackle these two separate issues in order.
Raise the bar
Right now, to get on the ballot to run for mayor of Minneapolis, all you need is $20, a filing fee has remained unchanged for the last 46 years. While that fee may have made sense in 1967, today the bar is simply too low for anyone to get their name on the ballot. As a direct result of that too-low fee, voters in 2013 are faced with 35 candidates to choose from, including far too many candidates who have not made any effort to engage seriously with voters. It’s no wonder people are confused.
To make it more likely that candidates respect voters’ attention and commitment by running real campaigns, not recreational or novelty ones, I believe we should raise the bar for the privilege of appearing on our ballot. I support a higher, more common-sense filing fee, but one that would be waived for a candidate who can garner a certain number of signatures from voters and demonstrate real grassroots support. An effort earlier this year to raise the fee fell short, but I support moving forward with this proposal so that in 2017, when we next vote for mayor, voters can be sure that the candidates on their ballot — however many there may be — are candidates who take them seriously.
Rank your vote
In my opinion, some of the candidates on the ballot this year could be very good mayors, and some could be excellent mayors. Now in past elections, we would have had to narrow our choices of very good and excellent candidates down to one; but this year, ranked-choice voting allows us to vote for the candidate we think is the best, and for two other candidates that we also think are good.
Although voters in other cities, like San Francisco and Oakland, have ranked their vote in recent local elections, we haven’t yet put the system to a real test in Minneapolis. As I’ve looked at our ballot, I’ve found it really exciting that we finally get to do so this year.
Ranking your vote is easy. The City of Minneapolis website has a very informative page that explains very clearly how to rank your vote and how your vote will be counted, including a fantastic two-minute video that you just have to watch. You can even practice ranking your vote on a sample ballot of “candidates” that are actually Minneapolis parks. (Using parks for candidates is actually a brilliant illustration of appeal of ranked-choice voting: most of us would hate having to choose just one of Minneapolis’ amazing parks as our favorite to the exclusion of all others, but most of us can come up with our top three.)
Please join me in thanking the dedicated City of Minneapolis staff who have worked so hard to build our terrific elections website, http://vote.minneapolismn.gov, which not only explains ranked-choice voting, but which can tell you where to vote, how to register and even how to volunteer to be an election judge. If you’re a Minneapolis voter, you will also be receiving an extremely helpful packet at home in the mail that includes very clear instructions and a sample of the actual ballot that you will receive in your precinct on Election Day, Tuesday, November 5.
I’m very grateful to all the staff and volunteers who are working hard to make sure that all voters know how to rank their vote and that Election Day is a success.
Two of Minneapolis’ greatest strengths are our dedication to voting and civic participation — our voter-turnout rate in last year’s election was one of the highest of any big city in America — and our openness to new ideas and new experiences. In that spirit of openness, we, the voters of Minneapolis, voted to adopt ranked-choice voting. Now, in the first real test of ranked-choice voting, Minneapolis is once again leading the way on a new way of voting that gives each of us more options, influence and power.
Next Tuesday, November 5, make history, build power, and rank your vote.