Is ranked-choice voting (RCV) coming to Duluth? We will find out come November, when the question will be on the ballot for Duluth voters to decide. We have an opportunity to change our local election process for the better and we can improve the overall campaign atmosphere in the process.
I have seen that there are some who are somewhat concerned or hesitant about RCV. I admit I was, too, at first. But when you consider the benefits and some of the complications we can resolve, it truly is an advantageous voting system. I encourage all of you to do some research and come to your own conclusions. Here are a few reasons why I am supporting RCV.
First, take a look at Duluth primary voter turnout over the past several years. While the turnout for our general election is awesome, the turnout for the primary has never been incredibly zealous and for years it has been declining. The reasons are perhaps another topic, but the fact is that the average turnout for the past five years in Duluth primaries is just over 20 percent. That suggests that on average, just over 20 percent of registered voters are determining our final choices in the general election.
Primaries also disproportionately exclude certain groups. Voters over 50 characterize 48 percent of all registered voters, yet they also represent 81 percent of primary voters. Now to me, that is a problem that needs rectifying. By eliminating the low-turnout primaries and moving to a RCV single election, we ought to be able to continue our long tradition of significant general election voter turnouts. Not to mention, candidates will be selected by a much higher percentage of registered voters and certainly a more accurate reflection of our diverse community.
I have to imagine that many of you would agree that civility in campaigns has been noticeably absent. Actually, local elections here in Duluth are not nearly as damaging, but we could still do a better job of focusing on important issues. RCV can help in that matter, because candidates will be forced to try and connect with all voters, not just their core base. That means they will practice civil and far more attentive campaigns. And that translates into less negative campaigning, less undesirable direct mail in your box and a stronger focus on important issues instead of personalities. Seems like a victory to me.
Change is always difficult and when it comes to a right as precious as voting, we ought to move slowly. But here is an opportunity to be more inclusive and return civility to our democratic process. It's worked in many cities. We, too, can make it work in Duluth.
Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.