St. Paul does not need IRV

Instant runoff voting is expensive, convoluted and undemocratic.

by Andy Cilek, Guest columnist

I would like to offer a quick response to your editorial board letter titled âÄúSt Paul needs IRVâÄù because it was full of misrepresentations. Sadly, none of its arguments held water. The article suggests that we should eliminate low turnout primaries to save money. If increased voter turnout was really the goal, simply moving the elections to even years would solve that problem. In a recent IRV election in Pierce County, Washington, election cost doubled according to its Auditor, Jan Shabro. Also, Ramsey County elections director Joe Mansky has stated repeatedly that he believes IRV would increase costs dramatically. The article also states that IRV is simply a âÄúprimary and a general election wrapped into oneâÄù. That is also not true: IRV is a series of runoffs, big difference. Senator John Marty, DFL, has introduced a bill, SF-395, which would require all state elections to use IRV in both the primary and general election which refutes that argument completely. The article states that IRV would require politicians to run campaigns focused on issues, but they donâÄôt explain how this would work because there is no answer, it is only rhetoric. FairVote, the group pushing for IRV, has also argued that IRV would decrease the role of money in politics without saying how that would happen. We believe that IRV will turn into nothing more than popularity contests void of real debate. A recent Star Tribune report stated that mayoral candidate R. T. Rybak raised around $270,000 for his campaign which is 19 times more than all other 10 candidates combined. It doesnâÄôt take a rocket scientist to figure out that money is playing a huge role in this race. Proponents often compare IRV to buying ice cream: âÄúIf they don’t have your first choice you get your second choice.âÄù This silly analogy is completely erroneous. First, if a choice isnâÄôt available, itâÄôs not on the menu. Secondly, the issue is not what choices are available, itâÄôs how your choice can be affected by the choices others make. A better analogy would be a process that allows other customers to choose your ice cream for you. In a recent City Council election in Aspen, CO, Michael Behrendt, would have won if 71 to 79 of his supporters had ranked him 2nd instead of 1st. This is now referred to as the âÄúMichael Behrendt effect,âÄù which clearly demonstrates that in IRV a voter can unknowingly harm his own cause by ranking his preferred candidate first. That is a perversion of democracy! In IRV the only way to know for sure you are helping your favored candidate is if you know how everyone else ranked their ballots, and use a computer to figure out how you should rank yours. Otherwise you are voting blind. And because voters in IRV canâÄôt know their vote will have its intended effect, it is meaningless to them, and any outcome from such a system is also meaningless. As the 1915 MN Supreme Court stated, âÄúPreferential voting directly diminishes the right of an elector to cast an effective vote for the candidate of his choice.âÄù IRV violates this defining democratic principle. St. Paul voters should fully investigate IRV and not simply accept the word of self-interested activist groups and politicians, especially when they misrepresent the facts in promoting their scheme. We believe that once IRV is fully understood, the people and the Courts will ultimately reject it. Until then, we will get to watch the first, and last, IRV election in Minnesota which is sure to be a nightmare just like it has everywhere else it has been tried. Andy Cilek Executive Director Minnesota Voters Alliance