City adopts ranked-choice voting

Decision made for 2019 election after unanimous City Council vote


Yonah Davis

Junior Yoni Potter reviews sample ballots for the 2019 St. Louis Park municipal election which will utilize ranked-choice voting for the first time.

Gabriel Kaplan and Noah Orloff

To implement the ranked-choice voting system, the City Council needed all of its members to approve the change, according to St. Louis Park mayor Jake Spano.

“The City Council had to vote unanimously in favor otherwise it would not pass,” Spano said. “The Council did vote unanimously, so (ranked-choice voting) will go into effect in this coming November’s elections.”

The City Council vote to become a ranked-choice voting city took place April 16, 2018, according to the city.

According to Spano, St. Louis Park will join Minneapolis and St. Paul as cities with ranked-choice voting systems.

“Right now, St. Louis Park will be the third city in the state, that I’m aware of, that will have ranked-choice voting,” Spano said.

Elections specialist Michael Sund said changing the ballot may encourage an increase in voters in a city that already has a relatively high voter turnout.

“St. Louis Park is a community that participates in elections,” Sund said. “They have generally high turnout rates in comparison to other communities nationally, so we’re already civically engaged. I think ranked-choice is interesting to a lot of people so hopefully, that gets some participation.”

Although the change was supported unanimously by the City Council, Spano said each counselor had their own reasons for voting in favor.

“Some people felt that it would make for less acrimonious campaigns. Some people thought there would be a more diverse array of candidates running. Some people thought there would be more turnover and less longevity on the Council as they didn’t want people to be on the Council for so long,” Spano said.

According to Sund, the physical voting ballot will also experience a change.

“The difference will be instead of going down the columns, you’ll actually go left to right,” Sund said. “In each column, you’ll be able to select your first choice for mayor, and then the next column you’ll be able to select your second choice for mayor, and then your third choice will be in that third column.”

According to Spano, the voting change does not apply to School Board position elections.

“The thing to keep in mind is on one side you are going to have ranked-choice voting for municipal elections, (and) on the back side of the ballot, you are going to have your School Board races and those are not going to be ranked-choice voting — that system will stay the way it is right now,” Spano said.

According to Sund, who has been working to assure members of the St. Louis Park community understand the new voting system, residents have shown a strong interest in the new ranked-choice voting initiative.

“The residents of St. Louis Park have so far been interested and engaged, and we’ve done some outreach to various groups,” Sund said. “Folks have a lot of questions, and they’re generally really involved and positive about it.”

Sophomore Student Election Program member Maya Halpern said ranked-choice voting will help empower residents’ votes by giving them the ability to vote in favor of their second and third favorite candidates in addition to their first choice.

“I think it’s really interesting because it will give people’s votes more of an (impact) with all of the math that they do,” Halpern said.

According to Sund, ranked-choice voting allows voters to contribute to a candidate’s victory, even if they were not their favorite.

“If they still only want to vote for one candidate they can select them as their first choice and leave the rest blank. But now this option allows people who want to express preference in their voting, so they want to say, ‘Yes, this is my first choice, but if they can’t win, I have this second choice, and if they can’t win, I have this third choice,’” Sund said.

Sund said he has assisted Park’s Student Election Program.

“I’m excited that we do have a Student Election Program that we have started up, and we’re working with a lot of students,” Sund said.