New voting system runs smoothly on Election Day

Instant runoff voting, approved by a 2006 referendum, debuted in Minneapolis while St. Paul voted to implement the system.
  • James Nord
November 03, 2009

The implementation of an instant-runoff voting system in Minneapolis had little effect on the municipal elections.
Voter turnout was “light-to-typical,” interim Minneapolis Elections Director Pat O’Connor said. A small number of students were turned away at the University Lutheran Church of Hope on 13th Avenue for not having proper identification, but few problems were reported otherwise.
There were mixed opinions about the effectiveness of instant-runoff voting.
“I think it would be cheaper to buy the machine than to pay the person who has to sit there and count all those hours,” resident Emily Quinlan said.
However, O’Connor said that the cost would be similar to a traditional election.
“I definitely support [IRV] and I think it’ll be nationwide in four years,” Marcy-Holmes resident William Wells said. “It’s a guess.”
In St. Paul, voters decided to follow in the footsteps of Minneapolis, passing a plan to implement the system by a slim margin.
“It’s been total elation,” Ellen Brown, a St. Paul IRV supporter said.
Frank Pichler, a student at the University of Minnesota, said IRV is a step in the right direction by veering away from a two-party system.
Gophers men's basketball head coach Tubby Smith, who showed up to vote in his precinct in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, also weighed in on IRV.
“We have a game Thursday night so we’re ranking who the best players are and in what position,” he said. “I think a lot of people go through that when they vote. It’s interesting. It’s a different way of doing things.”
O’Connor said much of the feedback he received through the day was positive.
“We’re also getting feedback that a lot of people are choosing not to rank candidates and that they have just one choice and that’s it, and that of course is their prerogative,” he said.
A few voters had concerns about the five- to eight-week delay before final results can be announced.
“I don’t think the delay is as severe as they are predicting,” Wells said. “I think they are being overly cautious. I think we’ll have the results within 30 days.”
Charles Thorson, a political science major at the University, felt the city could have done a better job of notifying residents of the new voting system.
“It really sprang up on us at the last moment,” Thorson said.
Wells said the city did what it could given budget cuts and other problems.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how much resources this will take up,” Wells said. “That’s what everyone is going to ask — how much money is this going to cost, did it cost more than a regular election?”

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