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Group Launches Opposition Campaign to Ranked Choice Voting Referendum

October 12, 2015 03:30 PM

Without much organized opposition, supporters have been campaigning to adopt ranked choice voting in Duluth, but on Sunday, a citizen group announced it has launched a formal effort to oppose the ballot measure.

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Five city councilors announced last week that they opposed ranked choice voting and all are now members of a citizen group against a switch to ranked choice for mayoral and some city council seats. 

The "Keep Voting Simple -- Vote No RCV Campaign" gathered on the Duluth City Hall steps to give remarks and field questions from reporters. Among those speakers, Mayor Don Ness who said, the current voting system is working for the city. 

"In my mind, it's a solution looking for a problem, and quite frankly, in the city of Duluth and our non-partisan elections we don't have a problem," Ness said. 

Meanwhile, supporters of ranked choice said the method is an improvement and eliminates low turnout primaries. Robert Wahman with the Duluth Better Ballot Campaign said the Duluth mayoral primary in September with only 17 percent turnout is evidence that the current system isn't working well. 

"The preferences of this narrow slice has determined who we will get to chose form for our next mayor and city councilors," Wahman said. 

In a system where voters indicate their favorite candidate, as well as a second and third choice should their first choice perform poorly, UMD math professor Eric Erdmann argues the algorithm can actually work against a voter's intentions.

"The algorithm can find a winner that does not have the most broadest support in the election and the algorithm can actually cause you to help your least favorite candidate to win by giving first place support to your favorite candidate," Erdmann said. 

The Keep it Simple campaign also said that while RCV is a simple 1-2-3 ranking for voters, the counting process doesn't encourage civic engagement. 

"Ranked choice voting severely limits the transparency of the vote counting process, which then cuts into the public's trust of the process, Cathy Schuyler said. 

The group said it has started raising money this week, and plans to do voter education as well as some media campaigns. 

A representative from the Keep it Simple Campaign and the Better Ballot Campaign are scheduled to appear from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Valentini's Vicino Lago in a forum sponsored by the Duluth News Tribune and Duluth Chamber of Commerce. 


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