SF City Council Hears Presentation On Ranked Choice Voting

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It’s an election method already used in several cities across the country, including in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Now Sioux Falls city leaders are considering bringing ranked choice voting to town.

Right now in Sioux Falls city elections, if a candidate doesn’t earn 50 percent plus one vote, then we go to a runoff. We saw that this spring. But a system called ranked choice voting would dramatically alter how Sioux Falls voters cast their votes. 

“There’s really a better way to run city elections, if we’d known it back in the 90s we would have advocated that be in the city charter,” Joe Kirby of Sioux Falls said.

Kirby described himself to the City Council at their informational meeting on Tuesday as “one of the drafters of the Sioux Falls city charter.” He discussed ranked choice voting.

“Basically it avoids the cost of expensive runoff elections, runoff elections which often get a low turnout,” Kirby said.

Under the ranked choice voting system, while at the polls, voters would number the candidates from first to last choice. If no one gets that 50 percent plus one, then the least popular candidate’s votes are tossed aside, and the second choices for those voters are reallocated. You then add up the votes again until someone has a majority.

Sioux Falls city councilor Janet Brekke asked Kirby to attend the meeting Tuesday.

“I’m very interested in it,” Brekke said. “I think it’s a better way to do elections as well. I know there’s mixed feelings on the council, but my reason for asking Joe to come and speak at the informational is when we decide policy, I want to have open discussions with all the different options available.”

Councilor Christine Erickson says ultimately it should be up to citizens.

“I think it’s worthy of having a conversation for the ranked choice voting,” Erickson said. “I find it a very slippery slope as an elected official that I really don’t know that I have any business in legislating how I’m elected.”

Brekke also says voters would not have to rank all the candidates. KELOLAND News asked her what’s next with this conversation about ranked choice voting, and she said she thinks she will “take the issue to the City Council in a working session.” 

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