Larry Sillanpa

Following a long discussion at their August 13 meeting delegates to the Duluth Central Labor Body meeting voted to oppose the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) system that will be a Duluth ballot question in the Nov. 3 General Election.

A petition circulated in Duluth received 2,036 valid signatures to place RCV on the ballot, with 1,606 signatures the required number.

Duluth city councilors debated long into the night August 10 and again Friday, August 14 to settle on the language for the question.

Councilor Sharla Gardner said she has gone 180 degrees on the issue after studying it. She said some of the information councilors had received on RCV wasn’t accurate. The system is problematic when there are two candidates that will be elected as in an at-large race Gardner said.

RCV supporters say the rounds of counting just continue until two seats are filled in such races.

If RCV were to pass in Duluth it would change the city charter to use the system but school board elections aren’t covered by the charter so there would be different systems in play during the same election Gardner said.

Councilor Joel Sipress has studied voting systems for 25 years and he also was opposed to RCV, which is usually called instant run-off voting, because of multiple winner races such as at-large contests can be.

One of the points RCV advocates make is that it will end primary elections, which will save money and increase turnout. Those points were questioned by delegates.


“I can’t find anyone in labor who supports (RCV),” said NEALC President Alan Netland. “We’ve done a fine job of electing our candidates over the years and until someone can tell me how this would help us I think we should oppose it.”


That’s what delegates did after a lengthy resolution on the issue was read and voted on opposing Ranked Choice Voting. The resolution stated Duluth’s plurality voting system isn’t broken. It stated that local elections are held in odd numbered years so they are not distracted by state or federal elections “thereby creating a more informed electorate.” It said adding RCV would create three different voting systems for two separate elections at the same time, which would be confusing for voters. It could lower voter turnout because of that a delegate stated.

Discussion also sought answers to who was funding the pro-RCV campaign but little is known about that other than “some foundations.”

That raised red flags about how RCV voting could be used to ensure that conservative candidates would always get elected when their voters learn the system. They could educate their voters to achieve a 33% plus one margin which would be good enough to win if they didn’t vote for any of the other choices.

“The system can be used to get your candidate elected,” said Councilor Zach Filipovich.