To the editor:
Evangelists would have you believe that ranked-choice voting is a tried and true formula for fair, engaged and cheaper elections.
However, analysis shows that ranked-choice voting has had decades to prove itself, but repeatedly fails to keep its promises like blustering politicians. Despite renewed interest in the 1970s, today only 18 cities are actively using RCV for local elections with five cities outright repealing due to a plethora of issues. Why is adoption continually so abysmal?
RCV does not impact election costs during or after switching to RCV, according to a 2018 MIT Election Lab study. Savings estimates provided by Bloomington city staff are suspect when compared to figures from Minnetonka elections staff. The supposed $105,000 savings from eliminating primaries in Bloomington is over double compared to Minnetonka. Why are Bloomington elections so much more expensive? Interestingly you won’t find overall cost savings promoted on the Minnetonka RCV website, because there isn’t any. Bloomington voters need transparency from the city staff and council for projected election cost savings to be credible.
RCV does not increase voter engagement, regardless of racial or economic status, according to 2016 University of Missouri-St. Louis research. That same study specifically analyzed the 2013 Minneapolis city elections and concluded that “evidence indicates that socioeconomic disparities in voter participation are similar in plurality and RCV elections.”
RCV claims to require a majority vote winner, but that is remarkably disingenuous. Only the final round yields a majority; overall vote counts for RCV do not guarantee a majority winner. In fact, both the 2013 and 2017 Minneapolis mayoral races failed to elect candidates with a majority vote.
Can we expect more civil campaigning? Unlikely. How soon we forget the contentious campaigns of Betsy Hodges and Mark Andrew in the 2013 Minneapolis mayoral race. Per MinnPost, the negative attacks actually intensified via surrogates of candidates through email and social media. But this is no surprise as negative campaigning typically comes from outside groups that candidates can’t control. Outside money is just as prevalent in RCV elections.
Don’t believe the hype, there really is no upside to RCV for Bloomington voters.