So far, arrival of RCV not scaring off judges

Minneapolis’ adoption of a new voting method is expected to lead to a lot more Election Day questions. But those who’ll have to answer them so far don’t appear to be shying away from the extra work.

Carol Strong, the city’s election judge coordinator, said she’s only heard from one former election judge that he or she won’t come back because of ranked-choice voting’s intricacies.

“I’m getting many more people who are very, very excited about it and want to experience it,” Strong said.

Still, she has a daunting task ahead of her: Whereas for the 2005 municipal election she had a target goal of 930 full-time equivalent workers, she’s seeking 1,210 this year.

“We know that voters will have more questions about the new ballot and the new process. That’s why we’re adding two more people per precinct,” Strong said.

She said she’s not concerned she’ll hit her target.

“It’s new. People want to be part of it,” she said.

Election judges are in charge of opening and closing the polls, registering and signing in voters, collecting ballots, operating voting equipment and recording and certifying vote totals. There’s also an education aspect: When voters have questions, judges are the ones to answer.

Strong said that possibly the biggest challenge this year compared to past elections is that judges will have just one crack at their jobs. Ranked-choice voting eliminates the need for a primary, so judges won’t get a dry run in September.

“We just know that we have to get it right and train to it,” Strong said.

Anyone interested in serving as an election judge can apply at http://bit.ly/9M2Rz. Election judges will undergo two hours of training. Head judges have three hours of training.

If results are pending in January, then what?

One aspect of ranked-choice voting that caught several City Council members off guard during an elections staff report was the projection that it could take about 105 days for official results to be certified. A worst-case scenario stretches to as many as 129 days.

Staff said those numbers could be as much as halved if more people were to be involved in the counting of ballots. But even then, if the worst case were to come true, that means official results wouldn’t be available until after the new year begins.

Not only does that mean newly elected officials could be seated later than usual, there also have been questions about what would happen during the days leading up to the seatings. Who would rule the city?

The answer: current officeholders. According to the city attorney’s office, the city’s charter allows for incumbents to hold over their seats if necessary.

Practice ranking choices at upcoming events

In preparation for the fall election, practice opportunities are popping up for Minneapolis residents to get a taste of ranked-choice voting.

The soonest one will come during a Lunch With Lisa, City Council Member Lisa Goodman’s monthly luncheon for constituents. During the July 22 lunch, attendees will be able to vote for their favorite candy bars and learn how ballots are counted. The event will start at noon at St. Thomas University in Room 202 of Opus Hall, 1000 LaSalle Avenue. Call 673-2207 for more information.

Meanwhile, there also are plans for a more involved citywide practice run. That’s expected to be held on Sept. 15.

In future, Minneapolis may not be alone

On the same day Minneapolis’ voters get to experience their first taste of ranked-choice voting, St. Paul’s will decide whether they want to do the same during their next municipal election.

The St. Paul City Council on June 24 approved putting a charter amendment on their November ballot. More than 5,000 people petitioned in 2008 for the move, but the council waited until the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of Minneapolis’ system before moving ahead.