Minnesota Report

Now that the 2019 elections are over in St Paul, we sought information from interim Elections Director David Triplett on what actually transpired and received the following answers to our questions. Additionally, we have a spreadsheet of all of the votes cast in the precincts of Wards One and Six. We understand that if Question 4 were to be implemented it would slow the system down significantly.

Again, we will point out in Ward Six the high number of Inactive Votes, meaning these people did not vote for more than one person and because that person was not one of the final two candidates, they played no role in the end result and effectively were disenfranchised. One other reality, which we have learned anecdotally is a number of people did vote for the same person multiple times on the ballot, which is no different than bullet balloting.

2019 St Paul Election Results by Precinct (This is an Excel Spreadsheet)

In Ward One the total of Unassigned Votes was 9.067% and in Ward Six 18.43%. Why does anyone who believes in democracy support a system where as much as 18.43% of the voting population has their votes cast aside?

Triplett’s answers are in bold.

  1. Why aren’t the results of the city election readily available in a fashion so that a voter will know what the results of their own elections are after the application of vote distribution through Ranked Choice Voting on Election Day? They are. We post unofficial results on Election night. If a reallocation or recount is required, we schedule it promptly and provide those results as promptly as possible (Wednesday afternoon this year). For this election, we executed two reallocations and reported results following the transparent and public process described in the Saint Paul ordinance for ranked voting by the end of the same business week. The scheduled canvass of the vote was not affected by this. We follow all laws and ordinances that govern processing or ranked voting.
  2. Why doesn’t the machinery the county purchased have that capacity? No system – including the one used in used in Ramsey County – is currently certified by the MN OSS for Ranked Voting.
  3. What would it entail both financially and technologically to make the unofficial vote totals available ASAP? We are making the unofficial vote totals available as soon as possible. When the reallocation was complete on Friday, we posted the results to rcelections.org. We posted results for 2nd-6th choice on the website on Wednesday.
  4. I understand these machines have the capacity to take a digital image of each ballot, which would potentially enable the ability to count the votes in the Ranked Choice Voting fashion, why wasn’t this done? State law only allows for ballot images to be used to count write-in votes (8230.1530). We have no legal authority to do anything else with the images.
  5. Three of the major arguments for Ranked Choice Voting were lower costs over a Primary, majority election results, and higher voter participation. Are these being met? In our experience, many factors come into play for every election. All past election results and data are available for viewing and research at RCElections.org & MNVotes.org
    1. What are the costs of a Primary vs RCV? Each event is different. Generally speaking, administering a primary costs about $2,500 per polling place for a city election, this does not include AB or VR costs not associated with opening the polling places.
      1. Do these numbers include an ongoing education program? Ramsey County does not have any ongoing educational efforts for Ranked Voting. We continue to use the materials that were developed for the initial rollout of RCV which Saint Paul paid for. If so, what is that cost specifically? Is it budgeted to have an education program every election? If so is that a cost paid for by the city of St Paul?
      2. What is the cost of a hand count? Our staff’s time and election judges’ wages are the additional costs for the hand count reallocation. This varies based on the scale and time required to reallocate. An early estimate for the two reallocations from this past Friday is $2,600 to pay 18 election judges for 8.5hrs of work to conduct the reallocation.
  • Again, what is the cost of technology improvements and what will the ongoing costs be? We currently have no plans to change our technology based on RCV. Should the SoS certify our system, it’s something we could explore with officials from the City of Saint Paul.  
  1. Who should be expected to pay for the costs of RCV the county or the city? The City of Saint Paul covers the cost of their elections.

What is necessary for you to do your job better and more efficiently? I’m proud of the job our experienced staff and dedicated election judges do. We use every election as an opportunity for continuous improvement to make the next one run more efficiently.