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Effort to do away with ranked choice voting in St. Paul encounters resistance

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First-time voter
Election judge Chris Soutter explains ranked-choice voting to first-time voter Dalia Selman, 18, at Baker Recreation Center in St. Paul, Minn. Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

An effort to do away with ranked choice voting in St. Paul is getting strong pushback. Dozens of people packed into a meeting of a city charter commission committee Monday to show their support for keeping the system as is.

St. Paul residents approved ranked choice voting in 2009 and began using it in 2011. 

But Charter Commission member Chuck Repke said it's confusing for voters and has not lived up to its promise of boosting turnout. Repke wants to put a question on the ballot this fall asking voters to bring back primaries.

"People don't rank things," Repke said. "You don't decide today I'm going to rank which restaurant I'm going to dinner. That's not how we think."

Backers of ranked choice disagree. Ellen Brown — who chaired the St. Paul Better Ballot campaign — said there's no reason to revert to the old system of primaries. 

"All of the candidates are on the ballot when all the voters are at the polls," Brown said. "You're not pre-selecting two candidates by a tiny majority of primary voters."

The commission is expected to continue discussion of the proposed ballot issue at a March 27 meeting.