A closer look at Ranked Choice Voting

Expanded voting hours began Monday at the Early Vote Center in Minneapolis ahead of Election Day. Voters are selecting their preferred candidates for Mayor, City Council and Park Board seats. Some competitive races are driving turnout; elections officials report in-person absentee voting is already 25 percent higher than the last municipal election in 2013.

It won’t be the first time Minneapolis is using Ranked Choice Voting or RCV, but new voters are joining the rolls all the time and they have questions.

“This is our third experience in Minneapolis with Ranked Choice Voting, so it’s more about what is ranked choice, need a reminder of that and how to properly mark the ballot,” said Casey Carl, Minneapolis City Clerk.

While Minneapolis has used RCV for the past few election cycles, it will be the first time it’s used in a mayoral election in St. Paul.

Elections officials are working to educate voters on the process and how votes are tabulated.

“They get to rank the person who is their first choice, their second choice and their third choice,” said Hamline University Political Science Professor David Schultz. “Ranked Choice Voting is supposed to give people an incentive to say it’s ok to vote for your first choice, but if that person doesn’t do well, vote for your second choice.”

Schultz said RCV can lead to changes in strategy for candidates on the campaign trail.

“It creates an interesting incentive in Minneapolis and St. Paul to perhaps not attack your opponent,” Schultz said. “Getting to play the game or the strategy if you’re a candidate of encouraging other voters who are considering other candidates as a first choice to consider you.”

Schultz believes those considerations are especially acute in St. Paul, where there is no clear front-runner in the race.

In-person absentee voting is underway in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. Early voting, or direct balloting in Minneapolis, begins next week.