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All five candidates signed a resolution supporting the bill. The Roseville City Council supported it. All three legislators representing Roseville authored or co-authored the bill.
In late 2003, the House Government Operations committee, chaired by Jim Rhodes, held an informational hearing about ranked voting. The members of the committee agreed that it would be interesting if a Minnesota city would agree to try ranked voting as a pilot project.
That same year, a council member was elected mayor of Roseville, leaving a vacancy on the council. I suggested to the City Council of Roseville that if they used ranked voting, they could achieve a majority winner without a primary or a runoff. Roseville is not a charter city. The city attorney recommended that Roseville seek confirmation from the Minnesota Legislature that this process could be used. The Roseville City Council passed a resolution requesting such legislation and asked me to pursue it.
The first thing I did was meet with the new deputy secretary of state Tony Kielkucki. I told him our plans and asked for his support. He seemed positive and said he would get back to me. He never did.
I drafted a bill that would give all Minnesota cities the option of using ranked voting. It was authored by Jim Rhodes, a Republican, in the House and John Marty, DFL from Roseville, in the Senate. The two House members representing Roseville, Carl Jacobson, a Republican, and Mindy Greiling, DFL, were co-authors, as well as Kathy Tinglestad, Republican, and Jim Davnie, DFL. Senate co-authors included David Knutson and Betsy Wergin, Republicans; Sheila Kiscaden, Independence; and Linda Scheid, DFL.
The bill passed through Senate committee on a partyline vote, Republicans opposed. In the house, Jim Rhodes amended the bill, restricting it to Roseville’s election, and it passed through his committee. In neither case did a representative of the Secretary of State’s office appear to testify concerning the bill.
I spoke to many senators about the bill, including many Republicans, and few had any objections. But when the bill reached the Senate floor, Republican Senators Kleis and Limmer argued to defeat the bill, Kleis claiming that majority rule in all offices was appropriate, but should be accomplished with a separate runoff election, rather than a ranking process. The bill passed, with only a few Republican senators in support. View Video of this "Debate"
I was rather alarmed by the Republican response, since I was quite sure that none of them really cared what Roseville did. I then set about to talk to as many House Republicans as I possibly could before the bill came to the House floor. Only a few of the Republicans I talked to were dismissive. Some told me point-blank that they would support the bill, and others expressed that they had no reason not to.
But getting the bill to the House floor turned out to be a problem. Roseville was in a hurry. Even if the state passed the bill, the Roseville City Council still had to meet, debate, and pass an ordinance before March 15 in order to prepare for the April election.
Governor Tim Pawlenty was begged to speak out in favor of the proposal, but he didn’t say word one. His State of the State pledge, only weeks before, was to explore every idea and develop every option. He quoted FDR in that speech: “The country needs...the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and move on. But above all, try something.” The Governor was advised that this process could save millions of dollars for Minnesotans by eliminating a small percentage of non-partisan primary elections. No response.
Weeks passed, and the bill languished. I was told I needed to talk to Gregg Peppin, an assistant to the majority leader. He finally let me talk to him, and it felt like I had to justify ranked voting in the context of every conceivable election, instead of a puny little one time Roseville Councilmember election.
Evidently the Republican leaders met and finally agreed to have a floor vote. It was scheduled for March 15, the very last day Roseville could make a decision.
That afternoon, I was in front of the House chamber when the Republicans came out of their caucus. Jim Rhodes approached me and said he thought MCCL might be getting involved. Carl Jacobson, our Roseville Republican, refused to make eye contact with me as I pressed him for information. He hinted that he didn’t even know if he would be supporting the bill.
I was standing in the hall on my cell phone, urging Roseville City Council members to contact Carl Jacobson, when the Roseville citizens and my family members in attendance approached to tell me that the bill was voted down. Later I saw the tape. Link to "debate" Jim Rhodes introduced the bill. Mindy Greiling mentioned the support from the city of Roseville. Rhodes again emphasized the local nature of the bill, and highlighted a resolution from all five of the candidates in support. Then nothing. Not one word was uttered in opposition to the bill. In less than three minutes, it was then voted down, 78 to 54. Five pro-life DFLers joined all but six Republicans in defeating the bill. Carl Jacobson, who did vote yes, came out in the hall and told me, “MCCL killed the bill.”
A St. Paul reporter was present and spoke to several DFLers who received notes from the MCCL, warning them that if they supported Roseville’s pilot project, they would lose points on their pro-life rating. The reporter collared Steve Sviggum to get his views; he claimed that ranked voting “defied constitutionality.” Majority Leader Eric Paulsen was quoted as saying: “People vote for the one person you think should take office, and you live with the results. That’s democracy.”
Later, MCCL backed off its threat to downgrade supporters of the bill.
Several of the Republicans who promised me they would vote for the bill did not. Tony Kielkucki, the Deputy Secretary of State, went into the Republican caucus before the vote and told the members that Mary Kiffmeyer opposed the bill, something that he had failed to tell me or the public at a hearing where his arguments could be refuted.
Did Mary Kiffmeyer participate in the MCCL strategy to kill ranked voting in Roseville?
Look at the similarities between Kiffmeyer's comments about IRV made in year 2006 (transcribed word for word) with those from the MCCL.
What is your position on Instant Runoff Voting?
I believe you have a vote. And you need to vote. And we should be proud of how we vote. And casting that vote for any individual person that we want to vote for is very very important. I think that when you have an opportunity for you have to get your name on the ballot, your political party on the ballot, other folks like that, you should simply cast that vote and be proud of that. And I think that sometimes when you look at some of these other, ranking, or going through some of those situations, that those are something that will be discussed through the legislature. But I stand up for your right to vote and cast your vote.
Compare to MCCL 2004:
MCCL believes that voting is a privilege and that it should be taken very seriously. We believe citizens can, and do, look at all aspects of voting for candidates before casting their vote. Our nation was founded by leaders who believed that citizens could be trusted to make knowledgeable decisions regarding candidates and the election process was set up to convey that trust. We don’t believe that the issues addressed by instant run-off voting are problems and therefore see no reason to completely change our method of voting. For this reason, MCCL opposes instant run-off voting.