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 Response Page - Mansky  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Joe Mansky Interview of


State primary elections, not general elections, are the decisive elections in determining the make-up of the Minnesota Legislature, despite very low voter turnout in primaries, says Joe Mansky, Ramsey County elections manager. In noncompetitive legislative districts where the primary outcome is tantamount to election, legislators have little incentive to respond other than to their more narrow constituencies, he asserts. To improve the competitiveness of legislative elections, Mansky recommends allowing only the top two primary vote recipients, regardless of party, to advance to the general election, or using Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) to select party nominees in the primary. To make voting more accessible, Mansky suggests opening the polls for more days, establishing more centralized voting centers, letting people vote at locations other than their own precinct, and making it easier to vote from home.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary: Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Mansky. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Primary more important. (6.7 average response) Despite low voter turnout, the Minnesota primary election is more important in determining the winner of most state legislative races than is the general election.

2. Intra-party winners furthest from center. (7.3 average response) Winners of intra-party primary elections usually are those whose views place them closer to either end of the liberal-conservative political spectrum than their primary opponents.

3. Legislators respond to narrow constituency. (7.2 average response) Legislators from districts where the primary is decisive are likely to be more responsive to narrow constituencies than the broader electorate.

4. Require top two to compete. (5.7 average response) Make a major change in Minnesota's primary elections by requiring that the two top vote-getters in the primary, regardless of party, advance to the general election.

5. Use RCV in primaries. (4.5 average response) Retain the separate party ballots in Minnesota primary elections but utilize Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) to select each party's nominee.

6. Encourage multiple endorsements. (7.4 average response) Minnesota political parties should welcome multiple endorsements for the same office.

7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting. (4.8 average response) Create accessible "voting centers" open to all voters; don't require voting only at home precincts.

8. Expand voting period. (5.1 average response) Let polling places be open several days and evenings, not only on one prescribed voting day.

9. Make no changes to primary voting. (2.6 average response) Make no changes; leave primary elections in Minnesota exactly as they are today.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Primary more important.







2. Intra-party winners furthest from center.







3. Legislators respond to narrow constituency.







4. Require top two to compete.







5. Use RCV in primaries.







6. Encourage multiple endorsements.







7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting.







8. Expand voting period.







9. Make no changes to primary voting.







Individual Responses:

Bert LeMunyon (7.5) (5) (7.5) (2.5) (7.5) (2.5) (0) (2.5) (2.5)

2. Intra-party winners furthest from center. Are we giving up on the two parties because we think they are too ideologically polarized?

4. Require top two to compete. This would negatively impact the minority party.

5. Use RCV in primaries. I disagree with the idea that a Democrat can vote in the primary for candidates from the Republican Party or vice-versa.

6. Encourage multiple endorsements. Party endorsement doesn't seem to have much influence on the larger electorate.

7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting. There seem to be enough polling places close to most people's homes to make this unnecessary. If citizens want to vote, they will get to the polls.

8. Expand voting period. Since polling places are open for thirteen hours on Election Day, most voters should be able to get to the polls.

9. Make no changes to primary voting. Change the system so that voters must declare their party affiliation and vote accordingly. Why should members of the Lions Club have a say in who joins the Rotary Club?

Ray Ayotte (7.5) (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (0)

Luci Botzek (7.5) (10) (10) (0) (0) (7.5) (10) (10) (2.5)

5. Use RCV in primaries. The mechanics need to be better refined before I could support its use.

7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting. But only when we can assure the technology to back up such a practice - electronic poll books.

8. Expand voting period. But recognize (that this will have) likely a major cost impact for county government.

Bruce Kennedy (7.5) (10) (10) (0) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (10) (0)

4. Require top two to compete. Would insure the two most extreme candidates advance, as in Egypt.

5. Use RCV in primaries. Prefer to use RCV in primary to reduce field to 3 or 4, then use RCV in November to determine winner.

K. Bearman (10) (10) (10) (0) (0) (10) (5) (10) (0)

4. Require top two to compete. Top Two excludes diversity of opinions -- i.e., from multiple party and independent viewpoints -- in the general election, the one that counts.

5. Use RCV in primaries. Eliminate primary elections and use RCV in the general! Part of the rationale for RCV is to save taxpayers money by eliminating low-turnout primaries. Another reason for getting rid of primaries is that selection of a party's nominee should be the business and expense only of the parties, not the taxpayers.

6. Encourage multiple endorsements. Do you mean the parties should be able or want to endorse multiple candidates for a single office or do you mean that multiple parties should be able to endorse the same candidate -- i.e., make fusion legal? (The SCOTUS Timmons case made fusion illegal in Minnesota and needs to be superseded, which would be a good thing in my opinion.) Either way you mean it, I agree.

7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting. Registration and identity/residence control may be more difficult if voters don't go where the election judges have a good chance of recognizing them.

8. Expand voting period. But will the cities and counties (and state) be willing and able to pay for this?

9. Make no changes to primary voting. See comments to #5: Eliminate primaries; use RCV in general elections.

R. C. Angevine (7.5) (5) (7.5) (2.5) (5) (5) (7.5) (7.5) (2.5)

Ralph Brauer (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (5) (10) (10) (10) (0)

1. Primary more important. This was a thought-provoking discussion and a laudable attempt to deal with a growing problem. His comment on the impact of Roe explains a lot.

3. Legislators respond to narrow constituency. This is currently a huge problem. One thing he failed to mention is the impact of out-of-state money, which tends to go to extreme elements of both parties.

4. Require top two to compete. Interesting idea worth implementing.

5. Use RCV in primaries. The jury is still out over whether ranked choice gives extremists even more voice.

7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting. With one party moving to restrict voting rights, this suggestion is a breath of fresh air.

8. Expand voting period. Another great idea.

9. Make no changes to primary voting. Something needs to be done to break the current gridlock.

Jim Lilly (10) (2.5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (5) (2.5) (7.5)

1. Primary more important. This is true in highly skewed districts like my own. It is probably less true for more evenly balanced ones

2. Intra-party winners furthest from center. This is not true when a long-term incumbent is running against a radical challenger, but is true when two new people are running

4. Require top two to compete. This would be worthwhile studying and trying on a small scale for local offices.

5. Use RCV in primaries. This would be worth trying for district offices, but not for statewide offices.

7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting. If we had photo voter identification requirements, then this would be a good idea, but if the constitutional amendment fails, then home precincts allow better voter identification.

8. Expand voting period. You would have to address the additional costs to this as well as voter identification issues.

9. Make no changes to primary voting. Voter identification requirements would change a lot of things. Until we have photo identification requirements, we should leave the system alone.

Peter Hennessey (2.5) (2.5) (2.5) (0) (0) (5) (0) (0) (0)

1. Primary more important. You'd better produce some convincing statistics when you make an assertion like this. If you really want to solve the problem of low voter turn-out (why was this not mentioned in these questions?) then change the law to say that no candidate wins unless he gets at least 50%+1 of all voters in a multi-candidate race, or of all registered voters in a two-candidate race. Any office that is not filled remains vacant until such time as voters see fit to fill it; no temporary appointments or internal promotions or assignments to perform the functions and duties of the vacant office.

2. Intra-party winners furthest from center. You'd better produce some convincing statistics when you make an assertion like this.

3. Legislators respond to narrow constituency. You'd better produce some convincing statistics when you make an assertion like this.

4. Require top two to compete. This is the formula for eliminating the very idea of political party participation in elections, and therefore the very idea that well reasoned convictions ("ideology") matter in politics. This is the formula for a one-party system. You don't have to look very far to find proof; California is a good example, or any district with a large majority one way or another where the top two candidates from the majority party are more popular that anybody from the minority party. But if you believe that politics is the forum for competing ideas, not personalities, then you can't seriously propose an idea… (such) as this.

5. Use RCV in primaries. This idea is nothing but an invitation to voter fraud. The ultimate choice is taken away from the voters and given to those who interpret the individual voter's intentions. Recent attempts at RCV that I know of in California have resulted in some clearly unexpected, unpopular results, and at least one study was published in a San Francisco paper that showed how different results would have been obtained by revising the RCV rules in different ways. The actual popular vote for the different candidates is a better indicator of the rankings. No need to engage in this silliness of "A" is my first choice, "B" is my second choice if "A" does not win, "C" is my third choice if…etc.

6. Encourage multiple endorsements. You forgot to mention multiple endorsements for the same office in the primaries. The truth that you seek to dodge with this proposal is that even the party faithful look to the party leadership for guidance, on the presumption that the party leadership is more familiar with a candidate than the rank and file is. It is up to the rank and file to tell their leadership if they resent or appreciate the leadership's attempts to indicate or impose their approval.

7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting. This idea is nothing but another huge invitation to voter fraud. How will you verify the voter's identity? How will you verify that a voter has not already voted elsewhere? Who would be motivated enough to check? Who would protect the poll workers from frivolous lawsuits or physical attacks? Who would prosecute the voter committing fraud? Certainly not the party who benefits from the fraud.

8. Expand voting period. This idea is nothing but another huge invitation to voter fraud. What do you want to do, give cheaters more time? So the people who hit five or more polling places in one day can do it again and again for several days?

9. Make no changes to primary voting. There is plenty of room for improvement. First and foremost is voter ID and other steps to preclude voter fraud, such as elimination of early voting, voting by mail and voting on-line, as well as severe restrictions on absentee ballots -- all of which are much too easy to abuse or hack.

Scott Halstead (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (0) (0) (0)

9. Make no changes to primary voting. Having late primaries provides a large advantage to incumbents. We need to even the playing field.

Don Anderson (7.5) (10) (7.5) (5) (5) (7.5) (5) (5) (2.5)

2. Intra-party winners furthest from center. That definitely has become more and more the trend.

4. Require top two to compete. It’s an interesting concept, but would it negate having a general election?

7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting. How would an eligible voter be identified, even if photo ID were required. It might prove difficult to administer.

8. Expand voting period. Would up-to-date results be shown and if so how would it impact the end results?

Ellen Brown (7.5) (10) (10) (0) (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (0)

4. Require top two to compete. Still would/could be dominated by the extremes of each party.

5. Use RCV in primaries. More likely to produce more centrist candidates than just having a non-partisan primary where the top two advance. And more likely to increase turnout, in my opinion.

7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting. Interesting idea, assuming that accessibility rather than disinterest is at the heart of the low turnout problem.

Chris Brazelton (10) (10) (10) (10) (2.5) (7.5) (10) (10) (0)

1. Primary more important. In districts that are not competitive between/among current political parties.

5. Use RCV in primaries. As long as the party faithful are casting the ballots, the winner is likely to be someone who appeals primarily to the party faithful. RCV is needed across the board. This will encourage moderation not only in the major party candidates, but will also encourage third party or independent candidates to get into the race, especially those that appeal to a broader spectrum of voters.

9. Make no changes to primary voting. The partisanship fed by our current voting methods, our current redistricting methods, our current campaign finance laws and partisan "news" stations is destroying the unity in the United States. It serves only a small percentage of the citizens and is bad for democracy. We are becoming a hypocritical laughing stock to the rest of the world, which undermines any moral authority we wish to hold. How can we pretend to support free and fair elections in the rest of the developing world when ours are becoming so tainted by the bankrolls of special interests, programming the voters to follow them like blind sheep, or rats following the Pied Piper right off the nearest cliff?

Anonymous (2.5) (0) (0) (0) (0) (2.5) (2.5) (0) (10)

8. Expand voting period. Voting is one of the most important rights we have; lets not water it down by saying it ok to not make it a priority. To allow for "convenience" is to say it is ok to slough it off for some other time.

John Doll (2.5) (7.5) (2.5) (2.5) (5) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (2.5)

1. Primary more important. Voter turnout is the most important factor in any election. Only the candidate's supporters show up at primary elections.

2. Intra-party winners furthest from center. At the primary level the strength of the candidate can play a big difference. Generally, the local party regulars trend toward the end of the spectrum, however, recent previous election results and the qualities (and platform) of a good candidate can have significant influence on that trend as it brings in new voters and modified perspectives.

3. Legislators respond to narrow constituency. Primary elections are triggered by the number of candidates or if someone wants to challenge the party-endorsed candidate. It does not mean the candidate is well liked or brings any significant credentials or qualities to the campaign. They could be closer to the end of their respective political spectrum than the endorsed candidate.

4. Require top two to compete. If races were non-partisan I would agree with this idea. If not, then a percentage threshold of say, 20% of all votes cast, should be used to determine eligible nominees for general election ballot.

5. Use RCV in primaries. RCV is only necessary if there are more than two candidates running for the same position within a party. Our problem is not too many candidates to choose from, it is too few. Maybe RCV would have an effect of encouraging more candidates to step forward, but rarely does one see more than one alternative candidate within a district step forward. It is disappointing that we do not have more people willing to serve their districts in the legislature.

6. Encourage multiple endorsements. Yes. Again, set a percentage threshold of votes at the local convention to advance to a primary. This is an interesting idea. It could encourage more participation (with more perspectives) in the election process, which could help to ease the polarization within our political system.

7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting. Especially if we are going to require voter ID. If you have an ID valid in Minnesota, you should be able to vote at any polling place within the state.

8. Expand voting period. I have never understood why we have a holiday to celebrate our independence from GB, yet we limit our voting to a 13-hour period on a workday. Modern life is 24/7 and as important as voting is to our political system we should make voting more accessible, including the time period in which we can place a vote.

Lona Schreiber (7.5) (0) (0) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (2.5)

Anonymous (2.5) (2.5) (2.5) (7.5) (5) (7.5) (0) (2.5) (5)

Anonymous (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (5) (2.5) (10) (2.5) (2.5) (5)

8. Expand voting period. Perhaps over weekends, etc., but, costs and fraud questions probably would override any change.

9. Make no changes to primary voting. Party conventions which are more open may have more opportunity for change than primary voting but regardless there needs to be more agreement on outcomes rather than signing pledges to follow party policy rather than exploring the advantages or disadvantages of issues.

Dave Broden (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (0) (10) (7.5) (2.5) (0)

1. Primary more important. Demographics of districts and gerrymandering to define safe districts set the tone. Party process does not evolve competitive races. Thus who are the candidates decides the winner.

2. Intra-party winners furthest from center. Definitely true if only the zealots turn out to vote. If centrists of both parties were to be candidates and a difference set of issues and topics were discussed that fit the centrists, the centrists would turn out and the results would be different.

3. Legislators respond to narrow constituency. Legislators link to those who support and encourage their position, not to the entire electorate.

4. Require top two to compete. Definitely would force discussion of a broader set of issues and topics and would thus break the ideological focus.

5. Use RCV in primaries. RCV does not really open the dialogue; it only gives some additional options. RCV will not in any way improve the primary process or cause the parties to reform.

6. Encourage multiple endorsements. This would encourage more candidates and candidates with varying ideology.

7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting. Voting centers can be an additional location but should not replace the home precinct. The home precinct is "community" which needs to be strengthened to improve the process. Centers will help those who desire flexibility and may encourage turnout etc.

8. Expand voting period. The idea is appealing but needs more thought. Voting is not a game or an event it is a process that makes our republic form of government work. We need to build on that and strengthen that, not make it a continuous process. Extended voting time could have been important in the 18th and 19th century but in today’s communication and transportation era, one focused day should be the voting as a special citizen right.

9. Make no changes to primary voting. Primary process and primary timing is begging for change. Moving the date to August did nothing to improve the process --it only addressed the military vote--we need true primary election process reform which links to how the parties select and who and how the candidates are chosen. Write-ins must be available at all times.

Richard A. Wilhoit (0) (7.5) (10) (2.5) (2.5) (2.5) (5) (2.5) (2.5)

5. Use RCV in primaries. I need to understand RCV more before I can finalize my thoughts.

7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting. I continue to have less than sufficient confidence that our voting process is sufficiently "fool proof" so as to avoid both fraud and inadvertent permitting of unauthorized voting. Further, the good people who man the polling stations are amateurs who assist in this important task only once every couple of years and thus may not be up to the task of challenging voters who should be challenged.

8. Expand voting period. See comments to #7.

W. D. (Bill) Hamm (5) (7.5) (10) (0) (5) (0) (0) (0) (7.5)

1. Primary more important. The rationale is not very clear unless you like the Party faithful’s hold on power.

2. Intra-party winners furthest from center. Sadly that is especially true with the extremists in control of both parties.

3. Legislators respond to narrow constituency. The minority considers themselves, and acts like, a majority. If the primary catches a true divide in that district’s politically elite, it then becomes something of interest that speaks beyond the core direction.

5. Use RCV in primaries. Very rarely needed since most races tend to be (between) two candidates.

6. Encourage multiple endorsements. …(this is something) that is more appropriate in a Socialist realm.

7. Allow voting centers, out-of precinct voting. This undermines accountability by making the process even more difficult.

8. Expand voting period. Create an incentive to vote, such as a voting earned income type credit.

9. Make no changes to primary voting. Most of the proposed changes were very outsider in nature, many having a strong basis in the Minnesota Independence Party's past line of (thinking).

Anonymous (7.5) (7.5) (10) (5) (5) (7.5) (10) (10) (0)

Josh D. Ondich (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

Robert J. Brown (8) (10) (10) (10) (0) (10) (0) (0) (0)

George Pillsbury (7) (8) (8) (5) (10) (8) (8) (10) (1)

Fred Zimmerman (9) (9) (7) (10) (10) (10) (5) (4) (0)

Some good thoughts. Thank you.

Donald Mark Ritchie (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Great summary, thanks.

William Kuisle (7) (5) (5) (0) (0) (6) (0) (0) (5)

Move primaries back to September. Election cycle is too long.

Al Quie (0) (0) (0) (7) (0) (10) (0) (0) (0)

I would prefer a second Tuesday in June primary and put up anyone who gets 20% or more at the endorsing convention in an open primary.

Wayne Jennings (8) (8) (8) (9) (7) (8) (4) (6) (2)

A complicated subject because of the implications and impact.

William Frenzel (6) (10) (10) (10) (0) (10) (6) (6) (4)

Bert Press (5) (10) (5) (10) (5) (5) (0) (0) (10)

Terry Stone (5) (10) (10) (5) (0) (8) (0) (0) (5)

Mansky seems dedicated to a legislative solution to underlying voter apathy. Good luck with that.

Chuck Lutz (9) (8) (6) (10) (5) (8) (6) (9) (1)

Jim Olson (10) (9) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (5) (1)

Jerry Fruin (8) (8) (7) (9) (5) (8) (5) (7) (4)

Lyall Schwarzkopf (6) (6) (9) (7) (3) (7) (2) (2) (5)

Jean Chaput (10) (10) (10) (10) (0) (10) (5) (8) (0)

An open primary might make for less single-issue votes.

Tom Swain (3) (9) (6) (9) (8) (7) (2) (5) (1)

Arvonne Fraser (6) (6) (4) (0) (0) (5) (2) (2) (7)

In this era where celebrity is often more important than achievement, party endorsements--where candidates are vetted are more important than ever. What organization worth its salt doesn't have a nominating committee? Why should we make elections popularity contests? Why should we allow anybody to run for office who has the filing fee? This is especially important when there are long ballots. Do we expect every citizen to vet every candidate herself?

Carolyn Ring (5) (7) (7) (1) (5) (4) (1) (1) (6)

Voting Centers would require multiple listings of registered voters, and multiple ballots. It would require many more judges. It would be more difficult for some to get to the voting place because of distance from their residence. In states such as Florida where they do have polls open for days and different times, few people take advantage of it and their voting percentages have not increased. Circumstances can change in the last few days before an election and then people want to retrieve their ballot, which, of course, is impossible. I do think there should be a much bigger effort to publicize primaries, better explanation that it is the parties’ opportunity to select their candidates, and the date should be changed back to September because summer is time for vacations.


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay,  Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon,
Joe Mansky,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and  Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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