Duluth Better Ballot Campaign and Charting a Course for a Charter Change

06.17.14 Post by Ian Kantonen

Ranked Choice Voting, the system now used in Minneapolis and St. Paul for municipal elections, eliminates the low-turnout, high-cost primary, allows voters to choose between full slate of candidates, and allows those voters to designate preferences through ranking their choices 1, 2, 3 (or 1-6 in the case of St. Paul).  Citizens of Duluth, with the help of MPIRG and FairVote Minnesota are currently attempting to bring this model to their city as well through the Duluth Better Ballot Campaign.  The campaign’s goal is to bring a city charter amendment forward to voters through a ballot question that will ask whether or not voters in Duluth would like to use RCV for future municipal elections.

The discussion on Ranked Choice Voting in Duluth started moving in 2010 when Mayor Don Ness appointed a citizen task force to study RCV and its potential impacts were it to be used in Duluth. Almost a year later that task force came forward with its findings and with a recommendation that the Duluth City Council place a question regarding RCV before voters as they found that changing the election system to an RCV system would benefit Duluth and its citizens.  Unfortunately action was stalled on the issue until this spring when a leadership committee convened and asked for assistance in moving on RCV again.

More recently the process has had to change its course in bringing this ballot question to voters after a reluctant city council chose not to move the matter forward on a surprise 5-4 vote after hours of debate and conjecture. There are multiple ways through which a city charter can be amended though so the campaign will continue. Now the measure may be brought forward via citizen petition, without any direct input by the City Council.  To conduct a successful education and petition oriented effort the Duluth Better Ballot Campaign will need excited and energized volunteers and leaders to bring the conversation (and petitions) to the voters of Duluth.  Look forward to continuing updates here and on the MPIRG at UMD Facebook page about ways in which you can help bring RCV to Duluth!

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