Ranked Choice Voting 2017 Elections Report

Ranked Choice Voting 2017 Elections Report


Our Story

Executive Summary

The 2017 municipal elections in Minneapolis and Saint Paul greatly exceeded the expectations of Ranked Choice Voting advocates. The elections showed the power of RCV to create a more inclusive, participatory and representative democracy. With stronger than expected voter participation, high levels of ranking among voters of all ages, ethnicities, income and education levels, and a nearly 100 percent valid ballot rate, voters in both cities demonstrated that they understood RCV, they liked it and -- based on consistent exit polls interviews -- they want to continue using it. These trends have become more pronounced with each consecutive election in which RCV is used.

Moreover, the campaign seasons in both cities were notable for their lack of vitriol and “mudslinging,” with a few limited attempts at sullying a mayoral candidate in Saint Paul and council candidates in Minneapolis backfiring and harming the candidates these efforts were intended to help.

The other positive result of these elections were the outcomes: more diverse leadership than ever before, including the re-election of the city’s first  Somali-American and Latina members and two transgender council members, both of whom are people of color. In Saint Paul, the first African-American mayoral candidate, Melvin Carter, was elected with a 51 percent majority in the first round. But RCV didn’t just foster a more diverse set of winners. By opening and leveling the playing field, RCV elections make it possible for more, and more diverse, candidates to run and to help shape the conversation about the future of their cities.

Despite the increasingly hollow claims of RCV detractors, Ranked Choice Voting has been decisively proven to be an easy, fair and preferred method of choosing leaders by a broad swath of the Twin Cities' electorate in the Twin Cities. Not surprisingly, cities from Saint Louis Park to Rochester now are pursuing a switch to RCV.

A quick glance at the 2017 elections results reveals:

  • A surge in turnout in Minneapolis, with 105,928 (43%) of voters casting a ballot in 2017 -- the highest for a municipal election in 20 years and a more than 32 percent increase over 2013. In Saint Paul, 61,646 (27%) voters turned out on election day, also the highest participation in nearly twenty years.
  • Higher-than-ever numbers of voters ranked their ballots -- nearly 90 percent in Minneapolis and 76 percent in Saint Paul -- indicating voters were well educated and prepared to rank their ballots.
  • A nearly 100 percent valid ballot rate.
  • An overwhelming share of voters (92 percent in Minneapolis and 83 percent in Saint Paul) who said RCV was “simple to use.”
  • Supermajorities of voters in both cities who said they want to continue using RCV locally and statewide.
  • Widely noted civility across the campaigns. In Saint Paul, only 9.6 percent of voters said that candidates spent most of their time criticizing their opponents. In Minneapolis, this percentage was 8.4 percent. Thus, an overwhelming percentage of Saint Paul (90.4 percent) voters and 91.6 percent of Minneapolis voters perceived that candidates did not spend most of their time criticizing opponents.
  • While some criticism and critique of opposing candidates will always happen )and we did see independent negative attacks on social media and by PACs), these numbers confirm another well-known benefit of RCV elections: overall candidates themselves overall focus on positive, solutions-based campaigns versus denigrating their opponents.
  • In Saint Paul, 90 percent of voters and 88 percent of Minneapolis voters said they were satisfied with their mayoral choices. It seems logical to surmise that voter satisfaction would be substantially lower if voters felt “turned off” by a mean-spirited campaign season. It also seems possible that the overall lack of negativity helped boost turnout as the corollary is true, negative campaigning is explicitly designed to suppress voter turnout.
  • The election of Melvin Carter, Saint Paul’s first African American mayor.
  • The election of the most diverse City Council in history, including an African American councilmember, two transgender people of color and the re-election of the first Somali-American and Latina. 
  • The election of an African American Park Board Commissioner and the first Somali-American elected to the Park Board. 

The Bottom Line:

The 2017 municipal elections in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul proved once again that voters:

  • Like RCV
  • Understand RCV
  • Want to keep using RCV
  • Want to see RCV expanded to state elections
2017 Rank Your Vote Education Campaign l What We Did

In 2017, we embarked on an ambitious education campaign to ensure all voters were prepared to rank their ballots on Election Day, November 7, and that all campaigns were prepared to run effective coalition-building campaigns. We know that the more voters hear about RCV, the more they understand and like it, and the more they rank their ballots. Our message to voters was simple: The more you rank, the more powerful your ballot becomes. That message resonated with voters and on Election Day, 87 percent of Minneapolis Voters and 86 percent of St. Paul voters ranked their ballots. Moreover, 92 percent of Minneapolis voters and 83 percent of St. Paul voters found RCV easy to use. This is compelling proof that our comprehensive voter education efforts worked. 

For candidates, our training focused on how to build a large core base of supporters, and then ask for second and third choice support. Again, the success of this training was seen on Election Day. Nearly all candidates had strategies that included reaching voters for second and third choice support and the high percentage of voters ranking reflected their strong efforts. 

Our website

The RankYourVote.org website was the go-to site for information about the 2017 Ranked Choice Voting elections, candidates running for office, and tips and tools for voters, candidates, the media and the general public. 

Our team

The success of our education efforts was made possible by our #RankYourVote staff team and hundreds of volunteers. 

  • Heather Klindworth, Director of Campaigns
  • Karl Landskroener, Field Director
  • Nate Fowler, Events Manager
  • Jeanne Massey, Executive Director 
  • Fahmo Ahmed, Lead Organizer in the Somali community
  • Demaris Montoya, Lead Organizer in the Latino community
  • GauNou Vang, Lead Organizer in the Hmong community 
  • Christine Lee, Communications Consultant
  • Cindy Bielke, Communications Consultant
  • Amara Samuels, Lead Intern
  • Aidan Zielski, Lead Intern
  • United Strategies, Strategy and Events Consultant
  • Andrew Beeman, Field Coordinator
  • About Amara, Outreach Consultant
  • Anika Robbins, Outreach Consultant
  • New Publica, Outreach Consultant
  • Kim Ellison, Lead Volunteer
  • FairVote Minnesota Board
  • 210 volunteers who contributed a combined 1361 hours!

Summary: Education by the Numbers

FairVote Minnesota, in partnership with the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and other community organizations, provided extensive education in 2017 to voters, campaigns and the media in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Our goal was to reach a combined 150,000 voters through trainings, events, candidate forums, phoning, door knocking, traditional and social media, and outreach through coalition partners. 

 These efforts resulted in: 

  • 532,469 people reached in-person and through social media impressions combined
  • 446,285 impressions through social media
  • 16,081 people who heard RCV presentations
  • 25,963 people who participated in one-on-one conversations
  • 44,104 people reached through media outreach by coalition partners
  • 42,044 in-person total reach
  • 5,663 people who cast a mock ballot (RCV practice in advance of elections)
  • 2,918 people who pledged to rank their vote
  • 1,184 people beyond Minneapolis/Saint Paul who signed up as FairVote Minnesota supporters

In addition to our coordinated efforts, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul sent voters guides to all households. And in Minneapolis, elections staff also attended targeted events and registered new voters.

Candidate and Campaign Education

    Another important part of our education efforts was training candidates and their teams to campaign effectively under RCV. What we did: 
    • Wellstone training in May - 55 candidates, campaign staff and volunteers, and other interested community members
    • One-on-Ones - 10 campaigns
    • Staff training - 5 team trainings
    • Literature distribution - Minneapolis City Council candidates carried literature in 8 respective wards and multiple mayoral candidates carried literature city-wide in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul
    • E-mail Correspondence - FairVote Minnesota provided regular updates to candidates and campaigns, including tips for best practices for campaigning under RCV
    • Presentations at candidate events – 19 events

    Coalition Building

    FairVote Minnesota partnered with several community organizations to provide education to voters and campaigns throughout the election cycle. Here's a snapshot of these collective efforts:

    • Take Action Minnesota - we provided training and materials and they educated voters at the doors and on the phones in their GOTV efforts
    • Hmong American Partnership - we provided staffing for phone banks in the Hmong community
    • Mesa Latina - we provided staffing for phone banks in the Latino community, calling more than 600 people
    • MN State Voice - we collaborated at various events and trainings, including National Voter Registration Day, Parade to the polls, Fellow training, North Side Get on the Bus, and GOTV
    • Black Votes Matter - we collaborated to provide education at forums, radio, and community meetings

    African American Community Outreach

    We partnered with Abou Amara and The Anika Foundation in coordination with Black Votes Matter for education and outreach in the African American community. Through these efforts, we were able to:

    • Coordinate outreach with seven African American organizations, including Promise Neighborhood, NAACP Mpls, NAACP St. Paul, Northside Achievement Zone, Penumbra Theater, Urban League and Wilder Foundation
    • Conduct voter registration drives
    • Reach more than 325 people through presentations at four churches with primarily African American congregants
    • Provide RCV education at the mayoral debate on KMOJ, reaching more than 500 listeners
    • Orchestrate Northside Achievement Zone Robocalls by CEO Sondra Samuels to more than 1,000 families living in north Minneapolis
    • Be present at forums in Wards 4, 5, and 8, reaching more than 2,500 people
    • Hold a Meet and Greet at H. White Men’s Room
    • Publish a feature story and an op-ed signed by various leaders of color in Insight News reaching more than 35,000 readers (in print and online)
    • Hold a presentation at Twin Cities Rise, reaching 50 constituents

    Latino Community Outreach

    In addition to hiring a Latino organizer, we partnered with New Publica and Mesa Latino for education and outreach in the Latino community. Through these efforts, we were able to:

    • Reach 4,523 people through Vida y Sabor and La Prensa social media.
    • Print four full-page ads, including front cover editions in these Latino/a-focused publications, which have a readership of 10,000 per edition in addition to online distribution
    • Create the Rankéalo blog to promote the concept of RCV in the Latino/a community, which included a Spanish-language letter of support and explanation signed by Senator Patricia Torres Ray, 63rd Senate District; Senator Melissa Franzen, Senate District 49; Representative Carlos Mariani, District 65B; Alondra Cano, City Councilor of Minneapolis, Ward 9; Maria Reagan, City Councilor of Richfield, Ward 3; and Paola Cole, Board of Education, City of Richfield with approximately 22,000 unique visitors
    • Place Senator Patricia Torres Ray on Univision explaining Ranked Choice Voting to thousands of viewers
    • Host a radio interview explaining Ranked Choice voting on LA RAZA 1400 reaching thousands of listeners
    • In partnership with Mesa Latino, make more than 600 phone calls in Spanish to targeted Spanish speaking households

    Hmong and Somali Community Outreach

    With several Hmong and Somali candidates running in 2017, we anticipated high turnout among voters in these communities. We hired organizers to do outreach, make phone calls and door knock. We also partnered with community organizations to expand our reach and ensure our strategies were properly targeted and culturally effective. We estimate we directly reached more than 1,000 Hmong and 1,000 Somali voters and several thousand more through newspapers, television, radio, social media, advertisements and posters. 

     In the Hmong community, we:

    • Provided translated literature and tabled at all of the candidate forums in their communities
    • Presented at Harding High School and the Concordia Hmong Student Unity Association
    • Knocked on more than 500 doors 
    • Regularly abled and canvassed at Hmongtown
    • Partnered with Hmong American Partnership to do GOTV calls and radio interviews
    • Displayed more than a dozen Hmong language posters throughout the Hmong neighborhood centers and businesses

    In the Somali Community, we:

    • Provided translated literature and tabled at all of the candidate forums in their communities
    • Canvassed Somali malls, mosques and apartments
    • Door knocked in Somali neighborhoods
    • Provided education at the Minneapolis early voting center where several Somalis voted
    • Interviewed twice on KALY Radio, the main Somali radio station
    • Hung at least a dozen Somali language posters throughout the Hmong neighborhood centers and businesses


    Our media efforts focused on educating reporters and editorial boards with regular news releases and memoranda and educating the public through letters and op-eds, and promotion on social media. Our reach included:

    • Letter to the Editor Campaign - More than 30 letters submitted and published in newspapers or on social media; 17 letters submitted during GOTV, alone
    • News releases - Prepared and sent nine news updates and memos to the news media, campaigns, and other interested parties
    • Earned Media - Placement of favorable and educational news articles in the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, Minnpost, The Journal, neighborhood papers and newsletters, and a segment on the Minnesota Tonight show (our local version of the Steven Colbert show).
    • Radio - Interviews on KMOJ, KFAI, WCCO and Somali Radio
    • Video - Education pitches at candidate forums streamed on The Uptake and other organizational live-streaming
    • Social Media – total impressions of 1,435/day and 446,285 for the year
    • More than a dozen favorable RCV-related news articles appearing before and after the 2017 election

    Phone Calls l Canvassing

    To ensure reach in targeted communities with new voting populations and language barriers, we did direct voter contact through phone banking and canvassing.  

    • In total, we made 21,623 phone calls and spoke with 1,097 voter. Of these conversations, we found that:
      • The largest increase in voter understanding was among new voters in Minneapolis, whose confidence rose from 73 percent at the beginning of the call to 85 percent at the end.
      • After a conversation with a FairVote Minnesota staff member or volunteer, 90.3 percent were comfortable and planned to rank, only 4 percent said they were not, and 5 percent were unsure.
      • At the beginning of the conversation, 71 percent of voters were “comfortable” ranking, 10 percent “not comfortable” and 18 percent “unsure.”
    • We engaged 8 paid canvassers to do both door-to-door canvassing in targeted communities as well as at hot spots around the community. In total, we door knocked and left literature at 4,000 doors, and spoke to 541 voters. Of these conversations, we found that: 
      • On our first ask, 60 percent of voters were comfortable planning to rank, 27 percent uncomfortable, and 12 percent unsure.
      • On our second ask, 82 percent were comfortable, 3 percent were not comfortable, and 15 percent were unsure.
      • This affirmed what we knew from earlier education campaigns, that the more people know about RCV, the more they understand it and are comfortable voting with it. 

    Education Events

    One of our most significant efforts was attending candidate forums and community events in Minneapolis and St. Paul, including neighborhood festivals, farmers markets, beer fests, music events, Twin Cities Pride and the State Fair. We also engaged more than 200 volunteers throughout the course of the campaign

    As large metropolitan cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul are home to hundreds of events from spring through fall. We took advantage of these events to reach thousands of people at these events (and had a lot of fun doing it!). Our goal was to reach as many voters as possible, have one on one conversations with them and secure their pledge to rank their ballots.  In sum:

    Minneapolis RCV by the Numbers


    2017 Minneapolis Election Key Findings


    By every measure, Ranked Choice Voting earned voters’ support in the recent Minneapolis municipal election. The numbers tell the story and detail how RCV overwhelmingly met voters’ expectations.


    • 43 percent of voters turned out
    • 92 percent of voters found RCV simple to use
    • 87 percent of voters ranked their ballots
    • 84 percent of voters said they like and want to continue using RCV


    • Turnout in Minneapolis was 105,928 (43 percent) – the highest for a municipal election in 20 years and a more than 32 percent increase over the relatively high turnout in 2013.


    • Voters demonstrated a deep and thorough understanding of Ranked Choice Voting: 87 percent ranked a second choice in the mayoral race and 73 percent ranked all three of their available choices in the mayoral race.


    • Mayor Jacob Frey, who won by building a broad coalition of first, second and third choice support, was present on 52 percent of all ballots.


    • High rates of ranking consistently occurred across the competitive, multi-candidate City Council and Park Board races, including in the lower-income and highly diverse Ward 4.
    Race Ranked 2 Ranked 3
    Park Board At-Large 78% 64%
    Ward 1 City Council 72% 41%
    Ward 3 City Council 80% 55%
    Ward 4 City Council 70% 50%
    Ward 11 City Council 78% 53%


    • Minneapolis leadership is more diverse than ever:
      • A gender-balanced city council (eight men, five women) was elected.
      • The first Somali-American and Latina members elected to the council were reelected, and the first two transgender council members were elected. People of color now represent nearly 40 percent of the council.
      • A Somali-American and African American were elected to the Park Board. 


    • The valid ballot rate was an impressive 99.96 percent, demonstrating high levels of voter confidence and proficiency in ranking their ballots.


    • Overall, 11 races went to a runoff (or reallocation) – mayoral race; Park Board Districts 1, 3, 6 and At-Large; and city council races in Wards 1, 3, 4, 5, 9, and 11. Of these 11 races, 3 seats were open. In the 8 seats with an incumbent, challengers won 4.


    • In competitive council races that were decided by second- and third-choice votes, we saw the highest rates of increased voter turnout:
    Ward 2013 Council Votes 2017 Council Votes Increase
    1 5618 8734 55%
    3 6091 9592 57%
    4 3819 5263 38%
    5 3499 4216 20%
    11 7346 9160 25%


    • This year, women and/or people of color ran competitively in nearly every race.
      • In 18 of the 22 races across the city, a woman and/or person of color either won or ran a competitive campaign.
      • A woman or person of color won in 12 of the 22 races.


    • A whopping 92 percent of polled voters said they found RCV very simple, or somewhat simple to use, according to an exit poll conducted by Edison Research.
      • While younger voters aged 18-34 (96 percent) found RCV simplest to use, 86 percent of voters aged 65 and older said they found it simple as well.
      • Income and education did not impact ease of RCV use:
        • 92 percent of voters with a college education and 92 percent of voters without higher education found RCV to be simple.
        • 93 percent of voters with an income above $100,000 and 91 percent of voters with an income under $100,000 found RCV to be easy.
        • 89 percent of voters of color found RCV to be simple, finally putting to rest the concern that communities of color would find RCV difficult.
    • 77 percent of polled voters across all age, income, education and ethnic groups said they were familiar with RCV before going to the polls, demonstrating the importance and success of the outreach and education efforts undertaken by FairVote Minnesota, the City of Minneapolis, candidates and the media to prepare voters for Election Day.


    • RCV fostered more civil campaigns. An overwhelming 93 percent of polled voters felt that candidates did not spend most of their time criticizing opponents. 88 percent of voters were also satisfied with the candidates for mayor which may be due in part to the high level of civility the voters experienced. The negative literature that was produced by independent expenditure groups on behalf of various council candidates backfired.


    • Voters like it: 84 percent of all voters want to continue to use RCV in future municipal elections and 70 percent would like to see it used for state elections.
      • High levels of support for RCV in Minneapolis exists among older, nonwhite, lower income and less educated voters, (people whom critics claimed wouldn’t understand or like RCV). The demographic breakouts for those who said they want to see RCV continue to be used in future city elections includes:
        • 70 percent of those aged 65 and older
        • 75 percent of people of color
        • 84 percent of people without a college degree 
        • 82 percent of those earning less than $50,000


    Prepared by FairVote Minnesota Foundation, January 2017  


    • Election Results provided by the City of Minneapolis Elections Department at http://vote.minneapolismn.gov
    • Exit Poll conducted by Edison Research. The poll was conducted in-person at 12 randomly selected voting precincts among 1,874 Minneapolis voters, using a weighted design to ensure an accurate representation of all voters. The margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level for the full Minneapolis sample of voters is +/-3.



    Saint Paul RCV by the Numbers


    2017 Saint Paul Election Key Findings


    By every measure, Ranked Choice Voting earned voters’ support in the 2017 Saint Paul municipal election. The numbers tell the story and detail how RCV overwhelmingly met voters’ expectations.


    • 83% of voters found RCV simple to use
    • 76% of voters ranked their ballots
    • 72% of voters said they like and want to continue using RCV


    • Mayor Melvin Carter became the first African American mayor of Saint Paul. He won on the first ballot by building a broad coalition of core support, receiving 51 percent of all ballots cast.


    • RCV ensured more diverse choice. This year saw the most demographically diverse slate of mayoral candidates in St. Paul’s history. Among the top five candidates, two were people of color and one was a woman.


    • Turnout increased significantly. Turnout for the 2017 city-wide mayoral race was 61,646, the city’s highest turnout for a municipal election in 18 years. 


    • A vast majority of voters chose to rank. Voters demonstrated a deep and thorough understanding of Ranked Choice Voting with 76 percent of voters ranking at least two choices.


    • RCV was easy for voters. An impressive 83 percent of polled voters said they found RCV simple to use, including 83 percent of people of color. This was remarkably consistent across different levels of income, age and education, which counters the argument from critics that RCV might be too much for some voters to understand. A high percentage of voters indicated that RCV was easy or somewhat easy, including:
      • 76 percent of voters 65 and older
      • 80 percent of people earning less than $50,000 a year
      • 77 percent of individuals without a college degree


    • RCV familiar to voters. Voters came to the polls on Election Day ready to rank their vote. An impressive 69 percent said they were “very or somewhat familiar with RCV before going to the polls.” This strong finding demonstrates the importance and success of the outreach and education efforts undertaken by FairVote Minnesota in partnership with community organizations and Ramsey County Elections.


    • RCV fostered more civil campaigns. An overwhelming 90.4 percent of polled voters felt that candidates did not spend most of their time criticizing opponents. Ninety percent of voters were also satisfied with the candidates for mayor which may be due in part to the high level of civility the voters experienced. The one negative mailing that was produced by an independent expenditure group on behalf of one of the candidates backfired.


    • Voters want to keep RCV. Voters like and wish to continue using RCV. In fact, 72 percent of all Saint Paul voters said they want to continue to use RCV in future municipal elections and 62 percent would like to see it used for state elections. This is consistent across a wide range of Saint Paul voters who would like to see RCV continue in Saint Paul, including:
      • 71 percent of voters earning less than $50,000 annually​
      • 60 percent of those without a college degree ​
      • 60 percent of voters age 65 and older​


    Prepared by FairVote Minnesota Foundation, December 2017  



    Results | Minneapolis Elections by Race

    Note: This section is in progress, with Minneapolis Park Board at-large and district races, and Board of Estimate and Taxation races, to be added. Visit the Minneapolis Elections website for additional information presentations of the election results for each race: http://vote.minneapolismn.gov/results/2017/

    Minneapolis Mayor's Race

    Ward 1 City Council Race

    Ward 2 City Council Race

    Ward 3 City Council Race

    Ward 4 City Council Race

    Ward 5 City Council Race

    Ward 6 City Council Race

    Ward 7 City Council Race

    Ward 8 City Council Race

    Ward 9 City Council Race

    Ward 10 City Council Race

    Ward 11 City Council Race


    Ward 12 City Council Race

    Ward 13 City Council Race

    Park Board At-Large Race

    Park Board District 1 Race

    Park Board District 3 Race

    Park Board District 6 Race
    Results | Saint Paul Mayor's Race

    Post Election Media Briefing

    What Voters Have to Say About the 2017 Elections


    Trends and Lessons Learned

    The 2017 elections represent the third use of RCV in Minneapolis and the fourth use in St. Paul. With two highly competitive mayoral elections, an open at-large Park Board election and several open and challenged council seats, these elections were by far the most competitive and robust overall. They provided a great number of lessons and opportunities to build from as we continue to use RCV in the Twin Cities and elsewhere in Minnesota. Here are the key trends and lessons we learned we experienced in 2017.


    1. RCV is having a positive impact on voter turnout. 


    • Since the adoption of RCV, we've seen an increase in effective voter participation by holding one decisive election in November. We've also seen upticks in voter turnout in races where RCV was used, including the 2013 Minneapolis mayoral election and Ward 2 elections in St. Paul.
    • This year, we saw a huge surge in turnout due in large part to the diverse, competitive and engaging campaigns -- mayoral campaign in both cities and the council and park district campaigns in Minneapolis -- that were only possible because of RCV. 











    2.  RCV fosters greater diversity.


    • Candidate pools are becoming more reflective of the populations they serve; after three cycles, we now are seeing many more communities represented directly including candidates from immigrant communities, the African American community, the LGBTQIA+ community, and women. Several of the candidates embody multiple underrepresented communities. 
    • Elected leaders are becoming more reflective of the populations they serve. In 2017, RCV helped elect St. Paul's first African American mayor. In Minneapolis, it has steadily helped elect the city's most diverse city council in history.

    Minneapolis City Council





    3.  Candidate education is as important as voter education.


    • The pushback against RCV often comes from candidates and campaigns that are fearful of how the change in the process may impact their campaigns. These concerns are greatly reduced by providing education and training to provide candidates and their teams with confidence and knowledge of best practices under RCV. This year, we co-designed the first-ever Wellstone training for candidates and their campaigns, and we provided ongoing support and resources throughout the election cycle. We believe this work was successful and well worth the investment. The testimony provided by candidates, both those who won and those who lost, following the election was evidence that candidates are not just acclimating, but embracing RCV as a more open and inclusive way of campaigning. 
    • Examples of how candidates campaigned differently:
      • Most of the candidates were effective in asking for second- and third-place rankings after receiving RCV campaign training. Most candidates included ranking language on their social media and printed literature.
      • The candidates themselves and their teams often provided effective information to voters.​​
      • More than ever before, we saw that candidates included a clear and strong field strategy of asking for second and third choices. This allowed them to talk to a broader range of people, and engage on a wider number of issues. In turn, this garnered them second- and third- choice votes, in addition to a greater number of first choices. This was seen with both multiple-round winners and first-round winners.​​​


    4. Going negative hurts the candidates that it intends to help.


    • We've seen in previous years how negative campaigning tended to work against the candidates who engaged in this behavior. This year showed more clearly than ever just how engaging in negative attacks hurts campaigns rather than help them. 
      • In the St. Paul mayoral campaign, candidate Pat Harris received negative attention because a PAC supporting him released an “attack” mailer against Melvin Carter in the last weeks before the election. This likely pushed Melvin above 50 percent in the first round of voting by changing first-place votes and swaying undecided voters.
      • In Minneapolis, candidates supported by the Minneapolis Works PAC, which distributed mostly negative mailers, lost in six of the eight races the PAC attempted to influence​.


    ​​5. RCV is changing how campaigns are raising and spending money.


    • We're still analyzing campaign fundraising and spending for this election cycle, but in general, we continued to see that money played a different, if not less important, role in the RCV campaigns. This is, in part, because it is no longer advantageous to raise money for expensive mailings or TV ads designed to attack opponents. In fact, those tactics severely backfire in 2017.
    • In the 2013 Minneapolis mayoral race, Mayor Hodges was outspent more than 3 to 1 by her leading opponent. This year, among the top five mayoral candidates, the best-financed mayoral candidate placed fourth, while one of the least well-financed candidates finished in second place. Once again, this election showed that an effective grassroots fieldwork that focuses on securing first, second and third choices beats money as a winning strategy under RCV.
    • While more research is needed to understanding the role of money in RCV campaigns, the initial impact we're observing shows a promising trend of reducing, or at least changing, the role of money in campaigns.


    6. With each cycle used, understanding for and support of Ranked Choice Voting is increasing.


    • This year, an impressive 92 percent of polled Minneapolis voters -- across all incomes, ethnic groups, and ages -- said that RCV was simple to use. This was an increase from 85 percent four years ago, which was the first big test of RCV in an open mayoral race. This level of competence existed despite the fact that a large share of voters were new voters and had not used RCV previously. The increase in confidence and understanding we believe is attributable to several factors that have improved over time, including more familiarity and practice with the voting process, better educated and trained candidates, greater familiarity among reporters who are writing about RCV, and more effective voter education tools and processes. 
    • Understanding among St. Paul voters this year, which was the first competitive mayoral race there, was similar to the level of understanding in Minneapolis four years ago. We expect that St. Paul voters will show a similar increase in confidence in future RCV elections. 



    7. Endorsing organizations are beginning to rank their endorsements.


    • FairVote Minnesota has encouraged endorsing organization to endorse a ranked slate of candidates. We have explained that it's to their advantage to inform voters of their second and third preference in the event their first choice be eliminated. This year, more endorsing entities saw the value in doing this and provided their supporters with a ranked slate in at least some of the races. These included, notably, the Star Tribune, Minneapolis Ward 4 DFL, Sierra Club-North Start, Minnesota Daily.
    • We also saw candidate supporters, and voters generally, identify their ranked list of candidates on social media which was powerful in setting an example for other voters. By mid-October, we were seeing a flurry of voters posting their ranked preferences. 




    Recommended Improvements

    As successful as the 2017 RCV elections were, there's still work to be done. We recommend improvements and education in three key areas:


    1. Improved ballot design and tabulation capability, including:


    • More efficient and user-friendly ballot design with more available rankings.

    • A ballot design and flexible design rules for cities with even-year municipal elections.

    • Certified RCV tabulation software to provide for accurate, transparent and instant results. ​​​​


    2. Additional education in the following areas:


    • The use of RCV in the Minneapolis' Park Board at-large race. We saw increased interest in this race this year because it was an open race and was highly competitive, yet there was less familiarity because voters often don't participate in the Park Board elections. As such, there was higher demand than usual for information about how RCV works in the multi-seat races. This area needs expanded education in the next cycle.

    • More education also is needed in the Somali community, both among candidates and voters, to counter the dynamic among Somali candidates to encourage bullet voting. This tactic is harmful to candidates and voters alike and it's important to address it before the next election cycle.

    • This year we began to work more closely with endorsing organizations to provide education on how to conduct ranked endorsements, and more organizations did rank their endorsements. But more education is needed to continue to promote greater use of ranking among endorsing organizations.

    • Last, but not least, education is needed among Independent Expenditures groups on the harmful impact of negative attacks and how to effectively advocate on behalf of their candidates. ​


    3. Further research relating to campaign finance and campaign practices:


    • As noted previously, we believe more research is needed in the area of campaign finance under RCV to better understand how and how much money is raised and spent, and the impact of PACs in influencing the outcome of elections.

    • While candidates were effective overall in differentiating themselves without resorting to negative tactics, we are still hearing from candidates and campaign staff that it is challenging and not always clear how to most effectively differentiate without alienating voters. More study would be helpful to identify successful campaign messaging under RCV; in particular, how candidates can effectively differentiate themselves from other candidates without engaging in negative tactics that can be harmful to their campaigns.

    • We will continue to conduct exit polls for each election to compare voter experience with RCV over time.

    We wish to thank our contributors who made our 2017 Rank Your Vote education campaign possible, including Target, Minneapolis Foundation, St. Paul Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Action Now Initiative, Penny and Bill George, and Karla Ekdahl and Peter Hutchinson.

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