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St. Paul needs IRV

// Published September 17, 2009 in Minnesota Daily
St. Paul held primary elections on Tuesday for its upcoming mayoral and school board races. While high voter turnouts were not expected, the 5% of eligible voters that showed up at the polls were the lowest in recent history, and the City of St. Paul spent around $100,000 to administer the election. Eleven-thousand five-hundred people should not determine the ballot for a city of nearly 300,000.

Three years ago, Minneapolis voters passed a ballot initiative supporting the use of Instant Runoff Voting by a 2-1 margin, and it will be used for the first time this year. This ballot initiative will be presented to St. Paul residents on November 3. Jeanne Massey, Executive Director of FairVote Minnesota, the organization behind the ballot initiative, poses a great question: “Why not get rid of costly, low-turnout primary elections and maximize turnout in a more democratic general election?” With IRV, the primary and general elections are wrapped into one.

This system allows voters to rank candidates for city offices in one November election where all registered candidates are placed on the ballot. With all candidates on the ballot, and their position within each voter’s ranking crucial, IRV requires politicians to run campaigns focused on issues important to a wider array of voters.

IRV also removes the defeatist stigma of voting for third-party candidates, as voters choose which candidate they want their vote to be counted for if their first choice is not viable. IRV allows you to vote for your best hopes, not your worst fears. Minneapolis residents should get informed about IRV before Election Day, while St. Paul residents should vote yes to IRV on November 3.