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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Analysis by St. Paul city attorney's office claims instant-runoff voting is unconstitutional

Please click onto the COMMENTS for the story.


Blogger Bob said...

City attorney says voting system is unconstitutional
By Jason Hoppin
Article Last Updated: 06/18/2008 11:58:17 PM CDT

Instant-runoff voting — or any newfangled voting method, for that matter — is unconstitutional, according to the St. Paul city attorney's office.

The analysis, released Wednesday, throws into doubt the fate of a successful petition drive aimed at reforming the way St. Paul elects its City Council and mayor. The matter is now before the City Council, which must approve the ballot measure before it goes to a citywide vote in November.

"If the City Council so chooses, the city is not obligated to put the proposed IRV charter amendment on the ballot," City Attorney John Choi wrote.

Despite a petition drive that took more than a year and collected 7,000 signatures — 5,386 of which were certified by local election officials — Choi said the law is well-established. The City Council is not obligated to place unconstitutional questions on the ballot.

"We don't have a crystal ball (on whether a court would find it legal), but at the end of the day we have to make a choice," Choi said, adding that instant-runoff voting is "more likely than not" unconstitutional.

The Minneapolis City Council is proceeding with plans to hold elections using instant-runoff voting in 2009, despite similar — though less thoroughly reasoned — advice. Others, including the state attorney general's office, also have raised questions about instant-runoff voting's constitutionality.

A spokeswoman for the St. Paul Better Ballot Campaign, which spearheaded the petition drive, said the group still is digesting the opinion.

"Today's opinion clearly provides our elected officials some options — as well as some opportunities — for leadership. As our City Council members consider how they will proceed, we challenge them to find a way to accommodate the voices of their constituents," spokeswoman Amy Brendmoen said.

Although many states' constitutions expressly allow for alternate voting methods, Minnesota's does not. That focuses attention on how courts have ruled on the issue, including a 1915 Minnesota Supreme Court decision striking down a ranked-choice voting system in Duluth.

That ruling, according to the St. Paul city attorney's office, prohibits the use of any alternate voting method other than one commonly used in municipalities across the state, where each voter casts a ballot for a single candidate, and primaries are used to whittle down the field.

In instant-runoff races, voters rank their choices on a single ballot. If none of the candidates receives a majority, the lowest vote-getter is eliminated and the second-place votes are redistributed. The process repeats until someone gets a majority.

That eliminates the need for primaries, which proponents say not only saves money but increases voter participation by adding to the number of voices in the field.

But detractors say it violates the "one man, one vote" principle, since those who voted for the candidates receiving the fewest votes could swing the election. A suit over instant-runoff voting in Minneapolis is pending.

"I was shocked. I thought (the city) was going to come out against it, but I didn't know it was going to be as thorough as it was," said Andy Cilek of the Minnesota Voters Alliance, the plaintiff in the Minneapolis suit. "I think it's clear."

Election officials also have raised questions about the implementation of instant-runoff voting. No federal agency has certified a ballot machine capable of counting ranked ballots, a requirement under Minnesota law. Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky said that means he could be forced to keep election judges on hand to tabulate ballots in close elections, at an expense of about $20,000 a day. Mansky also estimates it would cost the city $1.5 million to implement instant-runoff voting.

City Council President Kathy Lantry requested the opinion. She said she is weighing the petition — and the will of the 5,300-plus St. Paul voters who signed it — against the possibility instant-runoff voting could be ruled unconstitutional by a court.

"That's sort of the quandary that I'm in," Lantry said.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

NOW, when has civil rights and the constitution ever stopped Kathy from having her way?

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting taht Lantry thinks it's a "quandary" for her to have to held to the constitution! Maybe that's one of the reason the city has so many lawsuits against them.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lawsuits that keep getting thrown out. Maybe she knows what she's doing afterall.

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Leslie K. Lucht said...


What lawsuits that are throw out?
There are so many lawsuits because of Kathy L.

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is the language from the State Supreme Court back in 1914 about these kinds of voting schemes.

"A qualified voter has the constitutional right to record one vote for the candidate of his choice, and have it counted one. That right is not infringed
by giving the same right to another qualified voter opposed to him. It is infringed if such voter is permitted to vote for three opposing candidates."

I know a lot of you view me as a stark raving mad liberal, but even I can see what a con-game these ranked voting systems are.


Chuck Repke

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should see what they are writing about this on St. PaulIssues Forum. Chuck is the voice of reason over there and I disagree with Chuck 99.99% of the time.

This .o1% Chuck got it right. Way to go Chuck.

Scoop Jackson

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Scoop Jackson 4:40 PM

What do you think of how the two parties control the elections.
In the Nov. Election, a person can cross-party voting.
Why do the two parties control how we can vote in September, by not allowing cross over voting.

What do you think Eric, by once being in the DFL Democrat org. on Plato St.

What do you think of how the primary voting is limited Chuck.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anyone can
Chuck Repke, apparantly an OK Guy

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its always been that way. Two parties control the election system in America because they were never based on just names or really Left vs Right, it was always based on an ever expanding philosophy.

Its how the Democratic (not Democrat) Party became the oldest continuing party in the world and the while the Whigs went away, the Republimade p cans picked up a couple of their issues and rest folded into the Democratic Party.

Today, the 'other' parties are not so much parties as they are segments of the major two parties. The Greens, Constitutionalists, Independence and even Libertarians are reflections of segments of the two major parties. The only successful third party runs have been based on the individual personality or previous major party participation(Ventura, King, Lieberman, Sanders), not on a separate party identity or philosophy.

In short, when a good idea comes along, the Dems or Repubs will widen their tent just enough to bring that interest under their banner.

Primaries are ran by the state but sanctioned by the parties. Why not cross voting? Because that is the time for the supporters of the party to decide who will represent them against the opposition party. Every party gets a spot on the primary. If you're not a Republican, what right do you have telling to Republicans who their candidate should be?

The general is about who'll do the best job of the parties represented.

In local elections, its just free for all through the primary and you can vote for whomever. The top two vote getters move on to the general. Which is why I don't understand how IRV will change things so much.

Now, I will disclose that I signed the petition. I like a little shake up every now and then of the system and with IRV, a guy like Bob Johnson can be elected without ever going through the public vetting process. Or even an Eric Mitchell if enough pick him as their second favorite and the favorites are all over the board.

That's Democracy folks, an ongoing experiment. If it fails, we'll switch back faster than you can say "What happened to our DFL majority."


1:05 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

City Attorney John Choi's letter to City Council President Kathy Lantry concerning IRV

5:51 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Sharon sent me the link. Thanks Sharon.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:33 Minnesota makes it easier then most states to vote in partisan primaries. There isn't any state where you can vote in both parties primaries at the same time (crossover both ways in the same election). Better than half of the states in the country you have to register 3-6 months in advance as a member of the party to vote in the primary, so independents aren't allowed to vote in either primary.

The reason for the restrictions is that a partisan primary isn't a "real" election. It is a process that the political parties have to determine who they want to run in an election. If you think of it that way, shouldn't those who actually claim to be a republican get to pick who they run for Governor or Senator without having people with no interest in their party picking their candidate for them?


Chuck Repke

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here were my thoughts on Instant Runoff Voting (IRV).

These folks have claimed the high ground that somehow because they are the "good people" they deserve the ability to vote for multiple candidates and those of us who think that one person should cast one vote are "for the establishment." Somehow those of us that believe that people should be able to understand who they are voting for and that the public deserves the simplest, easiest to understand system are against the will of the people. And so, anyone that speaks against them is personally attacked.

I know that they think it is terrible that I have had the experience of actually working on winning campaigns and that I have picked up over thirty-five years of doing this a basic understanding of how people vote but let's try and take it to a current example and see if people get why this "fair vote" system is not a "better ballot."

Has anyone been paying attention to the national presidential polls? Do people remember that two weeks ago when polled 40% of Clinton voters were saying if she didn't win the nomination they would vote for McCain? These voters were being asked in the polls first would you vote for Clinton or Obama? Next they were asked if Obama wins would you vote for Obama or McCain? Because they saw their real choice as being between Clinton and Obama they had "ranked" Clinton first and Obama last. You could have asked many of them if the choice was between Obama and Attila the Hun they would have said Attila. Now two weeks later, we are down to less than 10% of the Clinton voters responding McCain. Did the world change that quickly in two weeks or are these voters now finally actually examining who their second choice is? That is the difference between a run off general election and IRV. Pro-IRV people try to make you believe that average voters rank their choice of candidates. IT IS A LIE. Elections are a process of attraction and repulsion. You are either moving towards or away from a candidate. If you want Clinton to be President and you see Obama as who is stopping Clinton from winning you are for Clinton and against Obama. Since the voter has made the choice of being against Obama if then asked to choose between Obama and McCain (someone they have no opinion of) they are then for the person they don't know, McCain and against the person they know they are against, Obama.

It is this kind of voting against one's own interest and for candidates that they don't know that the Green Party is counting on to try and win a few seats by chicanery that they can't win legitimately. The tragedy of course is that they have been able to convince many active DFL'ers that the voting public is much more sophisticated than it actually is and that EVERYBODY would rank candidates when they went to the polls. They are able to convince some of my liberal friends of that because they know that they are that sophisticated and want to believe everyone is. That, or they are so afraid of being challenged on the left by the Greens that they are willing to assault the voting public with this confusing cumbersome system to avoid having to stand up to them.

So, back to the Minnesota Supreme Court:

"A qualified voter has the constitutional right to record one vote for the candidate of his choice, and have it counted one. That right is not infringed by giving the same right to another qualified voter opposed to him. It is infringed if such voter is permitted to vote for three opposing candidates."

It is time for the City Council and the Mayor to stand up for the voters and State Constitution.


Chuck Repke

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unconstitutional, according to the St. Paul city attorney's office.

Is the city attorney's office above any laws, they just change the law to fit their needs.
The "city attorney office" their the king pins over code enforcement and the city council office.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For once I agree with you completely Chuck. The piece you worte was well said. Now get back to something stupid so we can beat you up some more.

2:06 PM  

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