here for PDF format
Participant Responses to
of Meeting with Jeanne Massey and John Hottinger
Civic Caucus, 8301
Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, March 7,
speakers: Jeanne Massey,
director, FairVote Minnesota, and John Hottinger, former state
Johnson, chair; Chuck Clay, Bill Frenzel (by phone), Jim Hetland, and Jim
Olson (by phone)
Context of the meeting--The
issue of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) has been discussed in several
previous meetings of the Civic Caucus. The Civic Caucus in a statement
issued late in 2007 urged that political campaign pollsters start ranking
candidates in order of preference. In today's meeting,leaders of IRV are
bringing the Civic Caucus up-to-date on recent developments.
Welcome and introductions--Verne
welcomed and introduced Jeanne Massey, executive director, FairVote
Minnesota, and John Hottinger, former state senator. FairVote Minnesota
is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that is leading the effort to
institute Instant Runoff Voting in Minnesota. Massey was lead organizer
of the successful Minneapolis Better Ballot Campaign for Instant Runoff
Voting in 2006. She is a research and planning consultant specializing in
urban and social services planning, facilitation and community organizing
and served 10 years as the executive director of the South Hennepin
Regional Planning Agency. She holds a masterís degree in Regional and
Community Planning from Iowa State University and a bachelorís degree in
Business and Spanish from the University of Northern Iowa.
consultant and author, served in the Minnesota State Senate from 1991-2006
and was DFL majority leader in 2003. He was an officer of the Council of
State Governments from 2001-2005 and served as chair of the council in
2004. Hottinger is a lawyer. He has a bachelor of science degree in
economics and journalism from the University of St. Thomas and a law
degree from Georgetown University.
Comments and discussion--Massey's
and Hottinger's comments and in discussion with the Civic Caucus the
following points were raised:
1. IRV explained--Massey distributed
a flyer that explains IRV: IRV allows voters to rank candidates according
to their preference, first choice, second choice, third choice, etc. If a
candidate receives a majority of first choice votes, that candidate wins.
If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and votes cast
for this candidate are redistributed to the other candidates, based on the
second choices of the voters supporting the candidate who is eliminated. This process is repeated until one candidate has a majority of
Hottinger said "ranked order voting" perhaps is more descriptive than "IRV"
but IRV has become the more popular term.
2. Major reasons for IRV--Massey and
Hottinger outlined the following reasons for IRV:
a. Assures a winning
candidate will always receive a majority of votes cast--No
longer will a winning candidate receive less than a majority, which
happens frequently now when more than two candidates are on the ballot for
a given office. The IRV process assures that the winner has a majority.
They noted that in Minnesota the winning candidate in the last several
general elections for Governor received fewer than a majority of votes
b. Empowers voters
who support candidates with moderate views--With IRV,
candidates will need to attract other voters besides those constituting
their core base of support. Thus candidates will have incentives to
adopt positions on issues that will attract a broad spectrum of voters.
Without IRV candidates are inclined to pay more attention to voters on the
far left or far right and less attention to those in the broad middle.
Massey distributed a report from John Porter, former member of Congress
and a member of the Board of Trustees at the Brookings Institution that
urges IRV to bring moderate and independent voters back into the election
They emphasized that IRV would have the effect of
reducing negative campaigning and reducing the likelihood of polarization
and paralysis among lawmakers because candidates could lose support by
appealing to a narrow audience.
c. Reduces the need for
IRV can produce a majority winner no matter how many candidates, primary
elections wouldn't be necessary with IRV, particularly in local elections
where all candidates run without party identification. But IRV can be a
very valuable asset in state party primaries to assure that a party's
nominee will have received majority--not just plurality--support in the
d. Increases voter
interest and participation--Studies in Cambridge, MA, which has
used IRV since 1941, and San Francisco, CA, and other cities where IRV is
used revealed greater voter interest and participation because all
attention is focused on the general election.
3. High degree of voter understanding--Hottinger
and Massey mentioned many cities that have used IRV, some for more than20
years. They cited exit polls taken in these cities have revealed the vast
majority of voters understood IRV when first exposed to the concept: 87
percent, San Francisco, CA; 89 percent, Burlington, VT; 88 percent, Takoma
Park, MD; 95 percent, Cary, NC, and 86 percent, Hendersonville, NC. They
stressed that, contrary to views of some persons in cities that haven't
tried IRV, the system has been working very well.
4. Current efforts in Minnesota--FairVote
Minnesota has adopted a strategy of working first on local elections,
rather than spending a lot of time on legislative or constitutional
change. Fair Vote currently is working to establish IRV in cities
governed by their own city charters. IRV was adopted in Minneapolis in a
2006 charter amendment referendum. There is a campaign to put IRV on the
ballot this November in Saint Paul, significant interest in IRV in Duluth
and growing interest in several cities in southeastern Minnesota and other
cities. IRV is scheduled to be implemented in Minneapolis in 2009 but the
city is behind schedule in developing a request for proposal to solicit
vendor proposals to provide an IRV-capable election equipment solution.
in the state constitution would be necessary, Massey and Hottinger said.
A bill has been introduced by Sen. Ann Rest and Rep. Steve Simon to
provide standards rules for the conduct of IRV elections in Minnesota, but
that bill is not likely to pass this session.
5. IRV works in multi-seat elections--Massey
and Hottinger explained that IRV also works where multiple seats are being
filled for the same office, for example, when several candidates are
contending at large for two or more seats. If only one seat is being
filled, a simple majority in votes of 50 percent plus 1 is required for
election. If two seats are being filled, the threshold is 33 percent
plus 1. For three seats, 25 percent plus 1.
6. Popular vote for President--Massey
and Hottinger said FairVote Minnesota also is seeking support for a plan
that would make possible a national popular vote for President, without
the necessity of a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral
College. Under the plan, state legislatures would enact legislation that
would commit their electors to supporting the winner of the national
popular for President as soon as states with a majority of electors
enacted similar legislation.
behalf of the Civic Caucus, Verne thanked Massey and Hottinger for meeting
with us today.
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. Core participants
include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting
years of leadership in politics and business.
A working group meets face-to-face to
provide leadership. They are Verne C. Johnson, chair; Lee
Canning, Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel,
Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland,
John Mooty, Jim Olson, Wayne Popham and John Rollwagen.
Click Here to
see a biographical statement of each.