Minnesota Democrats prioritize ranked-choice voting in election debates
Senate DFL lawmakers said they would aim to amend a larger state government and election measure to make ranked-choice voting prevalent around the state.
ST. PAUL — Senate Democrats on Thursday, April 15, said they would again push to expand the use of ranked-choice voting to limit the impacts of "spoiler" candidates and make sure voters have their voices heard at the ballot box.
A group of DFL senators during a virtual news conference said that they would continue their efforts to place the bill in a larger state government bill in the Senate or during conference committee conversations about the proposal.
Five Minnesota cities — St. Paul, Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Minnetonka and Bloomington — have enacted ranked-choice voting for local elections. The Senate DFL plan would make ranked-choice voting the standard statewide for primary and general elections for state and federal offices. Municipal governments would then be able to decide if they want to allow the new system for local elections.
The plan would let voters choose their preferences for each office and rank who they'd like to see in the position if a same-day run-off contest were to take place in the event that no candidate won a majority of votes.
The bill's author Sen. Kent Eken, D-Audubon, said "spoiler" candidates in some races had siphoned votes from the top two contenders, allowing a candidate who didn't receive a majority of the vote to win with a plurality of support.
"This is circumventing the will of the people," Eken said. By contrast, he said that under the ranked-choice model, "People will know that the majority will prevail in the end, which they don't know right now, so it will generate a whole lot more activity."
Democrats, who hold a minority in the Senate, will face an uphill battle in getting the measure approved this year at the Capitol. Senate Republicans have included in a larger election bill a provision that would prohibit local jurisdictions from opting for ranked-choice voting. Their plan would also require election officials to issue provisional ballots and voters to show photo identification at the polls.
Republicans who advanced the measures said they were key to ensuring election security.
“I want all Minnesotans to be encouraged to participate each election cycle, regardless of party, and the way to do that is to make voting easily accessible while maintaining the extremely important integrity of our elections,” the bill's author Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, said in a news release last week.
There's not been evidence of widespread voter fraud in Minnesota. Kiffmeyer's proposal was set to come before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, April 15.
Eken said he was prepared to fight for the provisions on the Senate floor or elsewhere in an effort to get the language passed this year. And if those efforts fail, Eken said he'd continue bringing the legislation and attempting to pass it in coming years.
“We’re going to try to get it any way we can,” Eken told reporters. “We’re going to keep pushing on this until it happens."