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IRV is ready for Minneapolis debut: State will benefit from the instant-runoff voting venture

// Published June 11, 2009 in Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune

The voting experiment may proceed. That was the word Thursday from the Minnesota Supreme Court about instant-runoff voting, aka ranked-choice voting, as embraced by a lopsided majority of Minneapolis voters in 2006.

That should also be the word today from the Minneapolis City Council. The charter amendment city voters approved authorizes the council to put the brakes on the new voting system only if it deems that the city is not ready for the change.

The council has reasons for qualms about eliminating the primary and allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference this November. It will be complicated -- especially as voters seek to fill two seats on the Board of Estimate and Taxation and three citywide seats on the Park and Recreation Board. It will require a hand count, and that could mean weeks of waiting for results. It will require considerable voter education -- and is bound to be confusing to some voters, regardless of how much explaining is done before Election Day.

Add to that the recent resignation of the city's respected elections director, Cindy Reichert, and it's understandable that council members -- who themselves are on the ballot this fall -- would have cold feet.

But they should also recognize that the switch to instant-runoff voting (IRV) is not theirs to decide. The decision was made three years ago by 65 percent of the city's voters. The charter spells out the one permissible reason for elected officials to delay: a finding that elections officials are not ready to implement the system.

A test election has been completed. In the absence of suitable vote-counting machines, a manual counting method has been devised. Public education money has been set aside. As of Thursday, all legal challenges have been cleared away. The city is ready to roll out IRV.