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St. Paul Instant Run-Off Voting Question (2009)

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The St. Paul Instant Run-Off Voting Question was a ballot measure that was on the November 3,2009 ballot in Ramsey County for St. Paul voters.

The question asked whether voters wanted to change the way they elect city officials.[1]

In instant-runoff voting, also called ranked-choice voting, voters would rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate gains a majority, the candidate with the least amount of support would be dropped and the second-place votes cast by supporters of that candidate would be added to the remaining candidates. This same process would continue until one candidate gained a majority.

Election results

The measure was approved as of November 3, 2009 at 11:25 p.m. EST.[2]

Result Votes Percentage
Approveda Yes 17,083 52.45%
No 15,486 47.55%
Total votes 32,569 100.00%
Voter turnout NA%


Those in favor of the measure saw it as a positive way to get more residents to vote. They noted that it would give voters more choice in who they elect and promoted a more positive campaign run.[3]

The St. Paul Better Ballot Campaign stated that the League of Women Voters was in favor of this measure, citing that the League supported the issue in the previous election. But the League of Women Voters came out to say they were not for or against, stating that they are a non partisan group. This created issues with the No Bad Ballots Committee who filed a complaint against the Better Ballot Campaign for using the League as a supporter when in fact they do not.[4]


Those against this measure saw it as too confusing and complicated for voters. A group against this proposition was late forming because there was no organized opposition. Most voters said they assumed that saying yes was the right thing because they didn't like to vote anyways. They also said that if there was a runoff , where one candidate doesn't get the 50 percent majority, then how would unsophisticated voters remember how they ranked the candidates to begin with? This is not an organized way to run elections, in their view.[3]

Previous attempts for IRV

In July 2008, under the threat of a lawsuit, the St. Paul City Council voted against putting the Instant Run-Off Voting (IRV) question on the November 2008 ballot. During this time, IRV was deemed a controversial method, and city council members said it would probably violate the state's constitution.[5]

The St. Paul city attorney's office offered their opinion on IRV in a 10 page opinion that stated the voting method would more than likely violate the Minnesota Constitution. Council members approved a separate resolution that called for the question to be put on the ballot if instant-runoff voting is found to be acceptable constitutional.[6]

Court issue

Immediately following the approval of this question, opponents took the issue to court stating that proponents did not present their case in a fair manner, that they wrongly claimed endorsements on the measure. This was a close issue already because it needed 51 percent of votes to be passed and it received 52 percent. There still needs to be a city ordinance to put this voting system into law and it would only be used for mayoral and city council elections. The issue is in court and will be decided there.[7]

As of December 1, the group that supported this measure, the St. Paul Better Ballot Campaign, has been fined $5,000 for falsely claiming endorsements. The issue still counts as approved though regardless of the fines imposed on the group.[8]