Minnesota's top court to hear Ranked Choice (Instant Runoff) Voting case, May 13
MINNEAPOLIS – Next week the Minnesota Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case Minnesota Voters Alliance v. The City of Minneapolis and FairVote Minnesota.
When: May 13, 9:00 - 10:00 am
Where: Courtroom 300, Minnesota, Judicial Center, 25 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul.
In 2006, Minneapolis voters approved the use of Ranked Choice Voting (aka Instant Runoff Voting) by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, 65 percent to 35 percent. The implementation of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in Minneapolis was challenged in Minnesota Voters Alliance v City of Minneapolis (27-cv-08-15) filed in Hennepin County District Court in December 2007. FairVote Minnesota, a non-partisan advocacy group, intervened in the case to join Minneapolis as a co-defendant. James Dorsey and Nicole Moen of the Fredrikson & Byron law firm and Keith Halleland of the Halleland, Lewis, Nilan and Johnson law firm serve as lead co-counsel in the case.
“We welcomed the decision by the Court to move quickly to settle this case,” said Jeanne Massey, executive director of FairVote Minnesota. “We fully expect that the Supreme Court will affirm Judge McGunnigle’s decision that RCV is supported by the Minnesota and the United States Consitutions and that Minneapolis can move forward in using this voting method for municipal elections beginning this November.
In a 30 page ruling rejecting the lawsuit, Judge McGunnigle wrote, “The City of Minneapolis has an important interest in respecting the democratic process, and the citizens of Minneapolis democratically voted for IRV by referendum” and concluded that the plaintiffs “have failed to demonstrate that IRV is either unconstitutional or contrary to public policy”.
The District Court decision was consistent with the outcomes of similar cases in other states, most notably Johnson v City of New York (1937) Moorev Election Commissioners of Cambridge (1941) and Stephenson v Ann Arbor Bd. of Canvassers (1975). In each case, RCV was upheld under the state constitution and/or election laws.
RCV is in use in several jurisdictions across the country and Minneapolis is poised to begin using this voting method in November for municipal elections. Additional cities may soon follow, in Saint Paul where a local referendum is slated to be on the ballot this year and in Duluth, where a referendum campaign has begun.
FairVote Minnesota was founded in 1996 to work for better democracy through public education and advocating progressive voting systems that lead to greater competitiveness, better representation and more participation.
NOTE TO EDITORS AND PRODUCERS: FairVote Minnesota representatives below are available to Twin Cities news organizations to provide additional perspective on next week’s hearing and other issues related to RCV. Click herefor background on the court case and here for more information about Ranked Choice Voting.
James Dorsey, lawyer, Fredrikson & Byron. 612-492-7079