In 2006, the U.S. city of Minneapolis, MN., voted to move away from traditional voting to use Ranked Choice Voting in municipal elections. The city has held two elections using ranked choice.
Coun. Linea Palmisano is now running as an incumbent, four years after being elected through a ranked ballot vote. She spoke with Women and Politics about the impact ranked ballots had on her decision to enter politics.
W&P: You have said you wouldn’t have run for council in a traditional first-past-the-post voting system.
LP: Yes. I believe that to be true. I grew up in the Chicago area and saw how people get ripped down in politics. It can be kind of a nasty environment. I had a full-time job and a one-and-a-half year old at the time. I wasn’t ready to get into a ring and fight, but I wanted to do good. . . the more respectable, more civilized world of ranked choice lends itself to more people getting involved.
W&P: What makes it more respectable, more civilized?
LP: In a more traditional campaign landscape, (campaign managers) quickly define who you are, get the people who they know will vote for you. . . .and then you attack (your opponent), push them into a corner.
The whole premise of ranked choice is that by nature, by strategy you’d have to be more friendly, because you are asking people to consider you as their second choice. You are speaking to to a wider audience . . . You are getting their feedback, you are learning what they want, you aren’t trying to talk about such a polarizing campaign.
W&P: Some say ranked choice voting would lead to more women candidates and more women being engaged. What do you think?
LP: Definitely. I think it allows us to be thoughtful, to be who we are, to engage more people.The other woman who got into my race would do events at the park explaining ranked choice voting with favourite flavours of ice cream. You get to cast a wider net that way. It’s a way to increase participation, which is attractive to women who have informal networks, being on the block, their work networks, other moms at school, at the park. For some reason running around to different events is still mostly a women’s domain.
W&P: What is your political background?
LP: I didn’t grow up wanting to be a politician, but I want to do good and I feel like public service is a way I can do good in the world and govern well. The kind of environment ranked choice voting allows for enables you to do that, to be yourself. There’s a lot more space to be in the grey area.
W&P: What were your platforms in 2013?
LP: The big buckets were about building a more prosperous, sustainable and connected city. By prosperous I do mean equity. Making everybody successful. Sustainable . . . I’m a bit of an environmental nerd. I could differentiate myself from my opponent with that. Connected was about mass transit
W&P: So ranked choice is the way to go?
LP: An advantage of ranked choice is you get to define the conversation more. Define the issues, the talking points…You get to have more of a conversation.
Jennifer O’Brien is a journalist in London, Ontario.
Ranked Ballot Public Participation Meeting
Saturday, April 22