To the Editor:
Making Minnetonka City Council elections fair, representative, efficient and safe is a priority of the city council, and ranked-choice voting will help accomplish these things.
Having a city council election during a pandemic would give us two bad options. Keep the usual primary and general election, endangering residents and our mostly older election judges twice, and depressing already-low voter turnout. Or have the city staff scramble to use mail-in voting in a primary and general election - a smarter and safer option, but with higher fixed costs (printing/postage) and more work (staff time).
Pre-COVID-19, there were several weaknesses in Minnetonka City Council elections. Frequent appointments instead of having special elections, candidates winning without a majority of votes, low and unrepresentative turnout (average 4% in August primary elections), few/no choices of candidates. Ranked-choice voting would make it simpler to run for city council, ensure a consensus winner with a single higher-turnout voting day, and reduce costs by eliminating the low-turnout primary election. Oh, and the millions of US voters who already use ranked-choice voting overwhelmingly prefer it.
Post-COVID-19, there are even more reasons to use ranked-choice voting. Eliminating the primary election and using a ranked ballot in the general election (one voting day instead of two) is safer and makes our election process less susceptible to unexpected shocks. If Minnetonka expands mail-in voting, a single ranked mail-in ballot would result in huge savings compared to primary and general election mailed ballots. People wouldn’t have to choose between their safety and their voting rights, and the city would have efficient and fair elections.
If the Minnetonka Charter Commission and the City Council do not act decisively in the next month, we will miss the window of opportunity to let voters decide on this crucial issue for the 2021 city election and beyond, and our elections will continue as they are – full of problems we already know, and unprepared for the problems we can’t predict.
Barb Westmoreland and David Haeg