How the 2009 RCV Election Works
Conducting the election using Ranked Choice Voting
What is Ranked Choice Voting?
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) allows voters to rank multiple candidates in order of preference. In Minneapolis, Ranked Choice Voting combines the Primary and the General Election into one event. In 2009, voters may rank up to three candidates for each municipal office.
What offices are elected using Ranked Choice Voting?
Ranked Choice Voting will be used for Minneapolis municipal offices: Mayor, City Council, Board of Estimate and Taxation, and Park and Recreation Board both At- Large and by District. This does not include Special School District Number 1 (often referred to as the Minneapolis School Board), county, state or federal offices.
How do voters use Ranked Choice Voting?
In 2009, Minneapolis voters may rank up to three candidates for single and multiple seat municipal offices. Each ballot will have three columns. In each office, voters will mark the ballot from left to right, marking their first choice for each race in the first column. If voters wish to rank different second and third choices, they will mark them in the second and third columns on the ballot.
How will voters learn to vote using Ranked Choice Voting?
During the summer, an extensive voter education program will be implemented and continue through the Nov. 3 General Election. Anyone who is interested helping the public understand these voting changes can join the Ranked Choice Voting Issues Group. The RCV Issues Group will meet the third Thursday of every month (July 16, August 20, September 17, and October 15). The meetings will be held at 7 p.m. in Room 132 in City Hall. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Voters will also be able to learn how to vote at the polling place on Election Day, where they’ll find posters and visual aids that explain how to mark a ballot, instructions at the top of each ballot, and Election Judges who will help explain RCV and answer voters’ questions.
What if a voter makes a mistake when filling out their ballot?
If a voter makes a mistake, the voter should ask an election judge for a new ballot.
Voters should pay special attention to avoid making some mistakes specific to Ranked Choice Voting. Those errors include:
• Marking the same candidate in more than one column
• Skipping a column between ranked candidates
• Marking more than one candidate for an office in the same column
How are votes counted using Ranked Choice Voting?
On election night, ballot counting machines will be used to provide unverified first round results. A hand count will be required in all races to obtain the official results.
Beginning the day after the election, City Elections staff must conduct several administrative procedures before a hand count can begin. First, it is necessary to confirm that all absentee ballots have been properly accepted and counted. Second, teams of two election judges of different political parties hand-inspect each ballot for voter error and account for errors where possible, following the rules in Minneapolis’ Ranked Choice Voting Election Ordinance. Third, all write-in votes for all three rankings of each office will be hand-tallied.
Then the hand-counting of each of the 22 offices on the ballot can begin. The first choice votes for all candidates are sorted and counted. If no candidate receives the required threshold number of votes to win a race, a process of eliminating candidates and transferring votes begins.
For single seat offices (Mayor, City Council Members, and Park Board District Commissioners) candidates with no mathematical possibility of winning (including the candidate with the fewest votes) are defeated, and votes for those candidates are redistributed to the next ranked candidate on those ballots. Votes are re-tallied. If no candidate reaches the threshold to be declared elected, this process is repeated until a candidate reaches the required threshold and is declared elected, or until the candidate with the most votes is elected.
For multiple seat offices (two seats for Board of Estimate and Taxation At-Large, and three seats for Park Board At-Large), a process of defeating and electing candidates begins. Whenever possible, candidates with no mathematical possibility of winning are defeated and votes from those candidates are redistributed to the next ranked candidate on those ballots. When a candidate reaches the required threshold and is declared elected, that candidate’s surplus votes over the threshold are distributed proportionately to the next ranked candidates on the ballots of the elected candidate. The process of defeating and electing candidates continues until the required number of candidates is elected.
The final results will be certified by the Minneapolis City Council.
Why will Minneapolis be conducting a hand count of the ballots?
Minnesota law requires voting equipment to be certified both at the federal and state level. Currently there is no certified voting equipment available that meets Minneapolis’ Ranked Choice Voting counting needs, or that is capable of preventing or notifying voters of RCV-specific errors they may make when marking their ballot. The hand-counting process will be used instead to determine official vote tallies, and to account for voter errors that the current equipment cannot recognize.
In what order will races be counted?
Offices will be counted in this order: First, City Council Members Wards 1 through 13 and Park Board Districts 1 through 6 will be counted. Then, city-wide offices are counted, including Mayor, the two at-large members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, and the three at-large members of the Park Board. Several City Council offices or Park District offices will be counted simultaneously. However, city-wide races must be counted one at a time because all ballots are needed to count the office.
What is the threshold of votes required for a candidate to win?
The threshold of votes a candidate needs to be elected in a race is determined based on the number of seats to be filled in that race.
Number of seats
1 seat – Mayor, City Council Member, Park Board District Commissioner
More than 50% of the number of votes for that office
2 seats - At-Large Board of Estimate and Taxation
More than 33 1/3% of the number of votes for that office
3 seats - At-Large Park Board Commissioners
More than 25% of the number of votes for that office
The formula used to determine the thresholds is:
Number of ballots cast for office
____________________________ + 1 = threshold
Number of seats + 1
The threshold is rounded down to a whole number.
If no candidate receives the required threshold after the entire counting process is complete, the top vote-getter (or vote-getters in races with multiple seats) is elected.
Why is Minneapolis using Ranked Choice Voting?
The voters of Minneapolis approved the change to Ranked Choice Voting in 2006. The City Council placed a question on the ballot that year asking voters whether Minneapolis should switch to RCV, and voters approved the change. That year, 149,318 ballots were cast in the election. Of those voters, 78,741 voted yes and 42,493 voted no on the question. Another 28,084 voters did not vote on the question.
This was the question put before voters:
Charter Amendment No. 161
A proposal to use Instant Runoff Voting in Minneapolis Elections
Should the City of Minneapolis adopt Single Transferable Vote, sometimes known as Ranked Choice Voting or Instant Runoff Voting, as the method for electing the Mayor, City Council, and members of the Park and Recreation Board, Library Board and Board of Estimate and Taxation without a separate primary election and with ballot format and rules for counting votes adopted by ordinance?
Planning to conduct a municipal Ranked Choice Voting election (formerly referred to as Instant Runoff Voting) by City Elections staff began in December 2006.
Will Minneapolis use Ranked Choice Voting every year?
No. The City of Minneapolis as a Charter City is able to choose its voting system for municipal elections only. County, state and federal elections are conducted according to Minnesota Statutes and Rules, and will not use RCV.
That means while RCV is used in the 2009 elections, in 2010, the traditional method of voting will be used at both the Primary on Sept. 14, 2010 and the General Election on Nov. 2, 2010.
Following the 2009 municipal elections, the next regularly scheduled election to use Ranked Choice Voting will be the 2013 municipal elections.
Can the AutoMARK and Ballot Counter help voters by notifying them of voter errors on their ballot?
The AutoMARK and the Ballot Counter cannot prevent or recognize voter errors specific to Ranked Choice Voting.
Voters should pay special attention to avoid making some mistakes specific to RCV that the machines cannot detect. Those errors include:
• Marking the same candidate in more than one column of an office
• Skipping a column between ranked candidates
Both the AutoMARK and Ballot Counters can help voters avoid a third type of error, marking too many candidates in one column. The AutoMARK will guide the voter in each office through all three columns and will not allow the voter to mark more than one candidate per column in any office. The Ballot Counter will notify a voter if they vote for too many candidates in any column.
Voters are responsible for following directions to make sure that they cast valid votes that can be counted. Voters who make a mistake or change their mind while voting are encouraged to ask an election judge for a new ballot.
Is the voting system reliable?
Yes, the voting system (the AutoMARK assistive ballot marking device and the ballot counter machine) used in Minneapolis is reliable and accurate for what it was designed to do. In 2008, Post-election Reviews of randomly selected precincts throughout the state were conducted by local election officials and reported by the Minnesota Secretary of State. In Minneapolis, six precincts were part of this Post-election Review. These reviews demonstrated that ballot counters used in Minnesota have an accuracy rating above 99.99% when voters fill out their ballots correctly.
Are there different methods of RCV, and which will Minneapolis be using?
Ranked Choice Voting is used elsewhere, and there are many different methods of voting and counting ballots using Ranked Choice Voting. As it will be implemented for Minneapolis municipal offices, Ranked Choice Voting will use the voting method known as Single Transferable Vote for single seat offices as well as multiple seat offices.
For single seat offices, the voting and counting is "instant runoff" voting where the winning candidate reaches a majority threshold, or where the winning candidate is the one with the most votes of the two remaining candidates.
For multiple seat offices, the voting and counting method result in proportional representation. Multiple seat offices are counted using the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Method.
Ranked Choice Voting Ordinance
See the entire Ranked Choice Voting Ordinance in the Minneapolis City Charter – Title 8.5 Elections – Chapter 176. Municipal Elections: Rules of Conduct.
RCV Definitions – including housekeeping revisions as of 10.02.09
167.20. Definitions. The following words and phrases when used in this chapter shall have the meanings respectively ascribed to them in this section:
Batch elimination means a simultaneous defeat of multiple continuing candidates for whom it is mathematically impossible to be elected.
Chief Election Official includes the Director of Elections and his or her designee.
Continuing candidate means a candidate who has been neither elected nor defeated.
Duplicate ranking occurs when a voter ranks the same candidate at multiple rankings for the office being counted.
Exhausted ballot means a ballot that cannot be advanced under section 167.60(a)(2) or section 167.70(a)(2).
Highest continuing ranking means the ranking on a voter's ballot with the lowest numerical value for a continuing candidate.
Mathematically impossible to be elected means either:
(1) the candidate could never win because his or her current vote total plus all votes that could possibly be transferred to him or her in future rounds (from candidates with fewer votes, tied candidates, and surplus votes) would not be enough to surpass the candidate with the next higher current vote total; or
(2) the candidate has a lower current vote total than a candidate who is described by (1).
An overvote occurs when a voter ranks more than one (1) candidate at the same ranking.
Partially defective ballot means a ballot that is defective to the extent that the election judges are unable to determine the voter's intent with respect to the office being counted.
Ranked-choice voting means an election method in which voters rank candidates for an office in order of their preference and the ballots are counted in rounds that, in the case of a single-seat election, simulate a series of runoffs until one (1) candidate meets the threshold, or until two (2) candidates remain and the candidate with the greatest number of votes is declared elected. In the case of multiple-seat elections, a winning threshold is calculated, and votes, or fractions thereof, are distributed to candidates according to the preferences marked on each ballot as described in section 167.70 of this chapter.
Ranked-choice voting tabulation center means the place selected for the automatic or manual processing and tabulation of ballots and/or votes.
Ranking means the number assigned by a voter to a candidate to express the voter's preference for that candidate. Ranking number one (1) is the highest ranking. A ranking of lower numerical value indicates a greater preference for a candidate than a ranking of higher numerical value.
Round means an instance of the sequence of voting tabulation steps established in sections 167.60 and 167.70 of this chapter.
Skipped ranking occurs when a voter leaves a ranking blank and ranks a candidate at a subsequent ranking.
Surplus means the total number of votes cast for an elected candidate in excess of the threshold.
Surplus fraction of a vote means the proportion of each vote to be transferred when a surplus is transferred. The surplus fraction is calculated by dividing the surplus by the total votes cast for the elected candidate, calculated to four (4) decimal places, ignoring any remainder. Surplus fraction of a vote = (Surplus of an elected candidate)/(Total votes cast for elected candidate), calculated to four (4) decimal places, ignoring any remainder.
Threshold means the number of votes sufficient for a candidate to be elected. In any given election, the threshold equals the total votes counted in the first round after removing partially defective ballots, divided by the sum of one (1) plus the number of offices to be filled and adding one (1) to the quotient, disregarding any fractions. Threshold = (Total votes cast)/(Seats to be elected + 1) +1, with any fractions disregarded.
Transfer value means the fraction of a vote that a transferred ballot will contribute to the next ranked continuing candidate on that ballot. The transfer value of a vote cast for an elected candidate is calculated by multiplying the surplus fraction by its current value, calculated to four (4) decimal places, ignoring any remainder. The transfer value of a vote cast for a defeated candidate is the same as its current value.
Transferable vote means a vote or a fraction of a vote for a candidate who has been either elected or defeated.
Totally defective ballot means a ballot that is defective to the extent that the election judges are unable to determine the voter's intent for any office on the ballot.
An undervote occurs when a voter does not rank any candidates for an office.
Last updated Apr. 4, 2012