Ranked-choice voting Minnetonka

Minnetonka voters approved changing the city's voting method to allow for ranked-choice voting, thereby eliminating the need for a primary. This diagram shows how votes are counted with the ranked-choice voting method.

The Minnetonka City Council unanimously voted to put a charter amendment for ranked-choice voting on the November ballot.

According to members of the council, it was only a matter of time.

“I think it makes sense to move it to the November ballot to get this issue behind us,” said Councilmember Rebecca Schack. “I think it’s something that’s going to be decided by the voters one way or another.”

The November election would also provide a greater turnout than a special election in 2021, allowing for “the broadest spectrum of voters to weigh in on” the issue and give the most representative view of how residents feel about the ranked-choice voting, she said.

The language that was approved to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot is: “Shall the Minnetonka City Charter be amended to adopt Ranked Choice Voting as the method for electing the Mayor and City Council members, without a separate primary election and with ballot format and rules for counting votes to be adopted by ordinance?”

The City Council has been reviewing the use of ranked-choice voting as an alternative to primaries as requested by FairVote Minnetonka, a group of residents advocating for the move.

The Charter Commission agreed to take up the possibility of amending the city charter, with study sessions beginning in January.

In April, residents and representatives of FairVote Minnetonka asked the City Council to move the charter amendment process forward and adopted an amendment, thereby prompting the Charter Commission to continue its review process.

After reviewing the process and weighing the pros and cons laid out by proponents, opponents and election officials through a series of meetings, the Charter Commission rejected the ordinance amendment at the July 28.

The council considered two options at the Aug. 10 meeting: repeal the ordinance amendment or submit it to voters in the form of a ballot question.

Councilmember Brian Kirk thanked the charter commission members for their work, but pointed to a list of concerns raised by the commission.

“If given more time, I think some of these issues could have been a little bit more clearly explained or maybe even debunked a little bit,” he said.

He gave the concern raised by the Charter Commission regarding the misconception of hand-counting the second round of ballots after the initial round of machine-counted ballots.

“Hand-counted doesn’t mean going through every ballot,” he said. “It means adding the votes from the lowest candidate, to those candidates that are left in the pool. It’s not hand-counting ballots.”

Kirk also talked about the concern made about exhausted ballots, which he said can be avoided by the voter.

“For those people that don’t want to risk exhausting their ballot, the opportunity of being able to vote for multiple candidates is right there. And it’s very clear, it’s not really confusing in my opinion.”

A communication plan was also discussed as there had been concerns with having enough time to effectively inform voters regarding the ballot question.

The plan includes articles in the upcoming issues of the Minnetonka Memo, emails to be sent to all 23,000 subscribers and media outlets and a mass mailing.

It was noted that the city must be balanced in its communications and should not encourage either a “yes” or a “no” vote on the question, according to the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

Mayor Brad Wiersum agreed that it was best to have a broad representation of voters deciding how Minnetonka was going to vote in the future.

Councilmember Susan Carter said she appreciated the residents who spoke up, “sharing their reservations, preferring a traditional vote and unafraid of saying an unpopular thing.” She encouraged residents to continue to show up for a robust dialogue.

“It’s time now to let our residents have a good hearty conversation on both sides,” Carter said.

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Kristen Miller is the community editor for the Sun Sailor, covering the communities of Plymouth, Hopkins and Minnetonka. Email story ideas to kristen.miller@apgecm.com

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