A sample IRV ballot, which lake is your favorite? (minnesota.publicradio.org).
by Tony Petrangelo
Jun 27, 2013, 7:30 AM

Gary Schiff learns about Ranked-Choice Voting

Gary Schiff was the first DFLer to drop out of the Minneapolis Mayoral race, citing the lack of a path to victory in the aftermath of the Minneapolis DFL convention.

He gave an interview to MinnPost after withdrawing from the race and shared some thoughts on his now defunct campaign for Mayor. In the course of the interview Schiff had this to say about Ranked-Choice Voting:

In his view, “It simply costs more money to compete with five other candidates in a November election than it costs to come in first or second in a primary.”

In the old system, Schiff said, candidates could target their message first at the 25 percent of the voters who cast ballots in a primary election and then at the 50 percent who would vote in November.

This is one of the critiques I have with Ranked-Choice Voting as well. By eliminating the primary, the system is actually makes it more difficult for upstart candidates of the major parties (in Minneapolis there is really just one party) to win.

This in turn makes the DFL endorsement that much more important, as a way to differentiate yourself from the other DFLers in the field. But with no endorsement, we have a situation with lots of undifferentiated DFLers running in the general election.

Making the general election an entirely asymmetrical race, and name recognition becoming a hyper-valuable commodity. In an election there aren’t that many ways to build name recognition and most of them involve money.

Related to that, in the past you really only needed enough money in your campaign coffers to make it to the primary election. At that point if you win the primary you will be able to raise more money and if you don’t win the primary, well, you don’t need more money anyway.

Now there is no primary, so if you are going to run, you pretty much need to be able to run to the general election, and that is going to cost a lot of money.

Speaking of money:

The other problem he encountered is that campaign contributions are limited to $500 for each candidate, which Schiff says gives wealthy candidates an advantage.

“If you have deep pockets, you can self-finance and you don’t have to spend time on the phone raising money in $500 increments, “said Schiff. “I’ve never represented a wealthy area of the city. I don’t have personal wealth, and so there will be an advantage in the future for wealthy candidates.”

While this issue isn’t directly related to Ranked-Choice Voting, it becomes more of an issue due to Ranked-Choice Voting.

There is a flip side to this though, a side where Ranked-Choice Voting possibly saved the day. If there was a traditional primary, instead of the current Ranked-Choice Voting system, things may have gone even worse, that is from Gary Schiff’s point of view.

In the interview Schiff said this:

There were two strong progressive candidates in the race.  When it came down to it, it was either a decision to split the progressive base or allow Betsy Hodges, who had built a stronger campaign than I did, to go ahead and take the lead.

But if there had been a primary, Hodges and Schiff splitting the progressive vote is exactly what might have happened, probably would have happened, and Mark Andrew would have been the likely beneficiary. And the race would essentially be over at that point.

But because of Ranked-Choice Voting, there is no reason the progressive vote would have to be split other then between 1st and 2nd choices. That’s pretty much the whole point of Ranked-Choice Voting.

Ranked-Choice Voting is not a panacea, but it does have some advantages over the current system. It also has some disadvantages. We’re going to be learning a lot more about both as this contested Minneapolis Mayor’s race slogs ahead.

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