In 2006, the voters of Minneapolis approved a change from traditional balloting to Ranked Choice Voting for municipal elections. See how Ranked Choice Voting was approved.
Minnesota Election law requires both federal and state certification of all electronic voting systems. Since there was not any certified equipment that could conduct a Ranked Choice Voting election, the City of Minneapolis elections staff had to hand-count the 2009 election.
Research and planning
As part of the 2006 Minneapolis Instant Runoff Voting Task Force, elections staff completed research and reports that would guide the planning for implementing Ranked Choice Voting in Minneapolis.
In December 2006, Minneapolis elections staff met with then Secretary of State-elect Mark Ritchie to seek support for the creation of the Minnesota Ranked Choice Voting Issues Task Force. This task force had an open membership and included two sub-committees: Technical Advisory and Legislative/Rules Committees.
Preparing for implementation
Election planning for the 2009 municipal election included a dual-track schedule, as it was possible that the City Council could postpone implementation of Ranked Choice Voting until a future year.
The 2009 municipal election would have 22 offices on the ballots. In each precinct, there would be five different offices on the ballot.
During the planning process that year, elections staff completed these tasks:
- Officially adopted Ranked Choice Voting as the name of the voting method to more accurately reflect the process voters use to rank candidates in single and multi-seat offices. In addition, "Ranked Choice" did not imply "instant" results from the process.
- Reviewed the newly-created Ranked Choice Voting city ordinance for housekeeping changes needed.
- Determined the best method to count the multiple seat offices that would comply with Minnesota law was the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Method (WIGM), which could produce the same election results in a recount.
- In May 2009, a "test election" was conducted for several purposes:
- Develop the first-draft ballot design.
- Work with different draft versions of materials to be used by election judges in the polling place to help voters.
- Kick-off voter outreach efforts by inviting various groups to experience Ranked Choice Voting & share their feedback on that experience and the ballot itself.
- Develop the method for hand-counting the single seat and multiple seat offices to determine the winner(s). Ballots were counted by combining all of the ballots for an office. For a turnout of 70,000, it was estimated that the hand-count for the 22 offices could take between 24 and 129 8-hour shifts of 39 counters.
- In June 2009, the council confirmed the Ranked Choice Voting election schedule.
- The ballot design was improved based on the feedback from the Test Election and other community feedback.
- In August 2009, the hand-count process was redesigned. A one-week "work-out" session developed the Minneapolis Method of hand-counting the ballots at the precinct level to use the precinct level data for analysis by office. Based on the Minneapolis Method, with a 70,000 voter turnout, it was estimated hand-counting the 22 offices would take 37 8-hour shifts with 102 election judges serving as counters and data entry staff. This new method would assure seating elected candidates on time.
- The training plan for election judges was designed to use at least one-half of the class time to explain Ranked Choice Voting to the judges.
- Hired an organization to conduct a impartial survey of voters, candidates and election judges concerning implementation.
- Recruited a Historian to document the implementation.
- In addition to traditional precinct staffing, election judges were recruited and scheduled to do counting and data entry.
The Minneapolis Method
The Minneapolis Method combines a hand-count with data analysis that avoids using an uncertified ballot counting program.
With the planned implementation in 2013 of certified equipment for use in the initial tabulation of ballots up to the point of data analysis, the hand-count portion of the Minneapolis Method remains as an efficient method for conducting a recount. In Minnesota, a recount must be conducted by hand. In 2013, data analysis will still be completed under similar procedures to those followed in 2009.
The full process involved in implementing the Minneapolis Method is documented here. Overall, determining winners based on the ballot data rather than sorting and re-sorting the actual ballots was easier and saved time.
The 2017 Minneapolis municipal election will use ranked-choice voting
Ranked-choice voting is a way of voting that eliminates the need for separate primary elections. When you vote in an election using ranked-choice voting, you can rank up to three candidates for each office.
Ranked-choice voting is used for all Minneapolis city offices: Mayor, City Council, Board of Estimate and Taxation, and Park and Recreation Board (both at-large and by district.)
While it will be used for all regularly scheduled elections in 2017, ranked-choice voting is NOT used for elections for the Minneapolis School Board, or county, state or federal offices.
Vote for your top three candidates
You can choose to rank up to three candidates for all offices on the ballot in the November General Election. Your ballot will have three columns. In each office,you complete the ballot from left to right, indicating your first choice for each race in the first column. You then have the option to rank second and third choices in each office. Your second choice would only be counted if your first choice did not receive enough votes to continue on to the next round of counting, so ranking a second or third choice does not hurt your first choice candidate. Your ballot will be counted whether you choose to rank one, two, or three candidates in any offices.
Educational fliers prepared for the 2013 Election on how to vote using ranked-choice voting (will be updated for 2017)
Ranked-Choice Voting - One page flier - English (pdf)
Ranked-Choice Voting - One page flier - Español / Spanish (pdf)
Ranked-Choice Voting - One page flier - Hmoob / Hmong (pdf)
Ranked-Choice Voting - One page flier - Soomaaliga / Somali (pdf)
Ranked-Choice Voting - One page flier - Oromiffaa / Oromo (pdf)
Ranked-Choice Voting - One page flier - Tiêng Viêt / Vietnamese (pdf)
Ranked-Choice Voting - Two page flier - Lao (pdf)
Instructions provided to voters at the polling place
Polling Place Instructions for Completing a Ranked-Choice Voting Ballot - English (pdf)
How your ranked-choice ballot is counted
After the polls close, election officials count all of the first choice votes to see if any one candidate has more than the required threshold of votes to win. In single seat races, the threshold is 50% of the ballots cast plus 1, or more than half the votes cast. If a candidate gets more than half of the votes in a single seat race, that candidate is declared the winner.
If no candidate received more than the required threshold of first choice votes, the Ranked-Choice process kicks in. The candidate who received the lowest number of votes is eliminated, along with any candidates who have no mathematical possibility of winning. Their votes are reallocated based on the second-choice votes on those ballots. If that process leaves one candidate with more than the required threshold of votes, that candidate is declared the winner.
If there's still no candidate with more than the required threshold of votes, the candidate remaining with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and his or her votes are reallocated based on the next remaining ranking on those ballots. If a voter's second choice candidate was already eliminated, their third choice gets the vote. This process continues until one candidate reaches the threshold of required votes, and that candidate is declared the winner.
For more information:
Counting a Ranked-Choice Voting Election - English two page flier (pdf)