By a slim margin, Bloomington’s ballot question regarding ranked-choice voting has passed.

And it was a split decision for the city’s organized solid waste collection program, a decision that will continue the system that has been in place since 2016, according to the city manager.

Needing 51% of votes cast to amend Bloomington’s charter and allow the use of ranked-choice voting for city council and mayoral elections, the election night tally from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website reported that 51.02% of the votes cast in the election were in favor of ranked-choice voting. Absentee ballot updates later in the week increased the margin slightly, to 51.19%.

The 25,332 “yes” votes tallied as of Nov. 6 were 1,175 more than were cast against ranked-choice voting. Those 24,157 “no” votes comprise the remaining 48.81% of votes cast.

“This is a win for Bloomington residents and our democracy,” said Laura Calbone, chairwoman of The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting Bloomington.

Ranked-choice voting asks voters to rank the candidates in order of preference. If a candidate receives a majority of the votes in the initial tabulation, meaning more than 50%, the candidate wins. If no candidate receives a majority, the candidate with the least number of first-choice votes is eliminated.

Voters who picked the eliminated candidate as their first choice would have their second-choice vote added to the tally of remaining candidates. This process repeats until one candidate has a majority of the votes, and eliminates the need for a primary election.

Calbone has touted the system as promoting a better democracy through more positive campaigning and a more inclusive and representative field of candidates. Promoting the system was challenging due to the coronavirus pandemic, as it eliminated the door-to-door campaigning the committee would have conducted.

“We made a lot of phone calls,” she said. “Most people don’t answer their phones,” Calbone noted.

People are often uncomfortable with change, but of the residents that committee volunteers spoke with, “overwhelmingly they are supportive,” she added.

Assuming the slim margin of victory holds, Calbone and committee members will look to support the implementation of ranked-choice voting and assist with the education process of the new system. “We will be happy to assist in whatever way we can,” she said.

Organized collection

Ranked-choice voting was one of three questions on Bloomington’s ballot. The other two pertained to the city’s organized solid waste collection, and provided an outcome the Bloomington City Council aimed to avoid.

The city instituted its organized collection system in 2016, prompting a legal challenge from residents opposed to instituting the system without a vote by city residents. The back-and-forth legal challenge ended earlier this year when a ruling in favor of the residents was accepted by the city, which crafted two ballot questions to address the matter.

The first question, about amending the city’s charter to require a resident vote in favor of replacing the competitive market for solid waste collection, passed with 54.4% of the votes. The 26,728 “yes” votes were 4,328 more than the 22,400 “no” votes.

The second question, based upon the passing of the first question, asked if the charter should be amended to prohibit the council from entering a contract with residential solid waste haulers for the exclusive rights to haul and collect trash within the city. A “yes” vote means voters do not favor continuing the organized collection system, while a “no” vote means voters approve of continuing with the system, according to the ballot language.

Although more than 54% of voters said “yes” to requiring a vote to change the system, more than 70% voted against changing the system. “No” votes for question 2 totaled 35,182, while “yes” votes totaled 14,485.

When the final counts are certified, the split decision on the organized collection questions will mean the city’s charter is amended, and that organized collection will remain in place, according to Bloomington City Manager Jamie Verbrugge. Both the charter change and ordinance will be effective Dec. 3, he added. “People should keep putting their cans out for collection,” Verbrugge said.

Vote totals are based upon the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website reports as of 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 6.

Follow Bloomington community editor Mike Hanks on Twitter at @suncurrent and on Facebook at suncurrentcentral.

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