Slow progress in count of Mpls mayoral election

After Minneapolis elections officials spent several hours tabulating ranked-choice ballots in the mayor’s race, City Council Member Betsy Hodges gained 32 votes to lead the race at 28,994. But Hodges, who is trailed by former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew, City Council Member Don Samuels and 32 others, needs 39,708 to win outright.

She would also win if she’s still leading when there are only two candidates left.

Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl said the process was so slow partly due to the fact that election workers were tabulating the vote using Microsoft Excel. They had to deal with 80,101 lines in the spreadsheet, each representing a voter’s choice in what Carl described as a “quasi-hand process.”

As a result, after six hours election officials had only eliminated the three lowest-scoring candidates and a column of write-in candidates. That meant officials had reallocated the the first choice-votes of just 252 voters to their second choice-candidates.

“The lowest is defeated, we go back and find their second choice ranks, then those are reallocated,” Carl said. “The number isn’t changing, it’s just shifting as it goes from one candidate to the next as each candidate is eliminated.”

Carl said no automated system is available to count up ranked-choice ballots.

The elimination of candidates also moved slowly. Election officials had to eliminate only one candidate in each of the early rounds because the gap was so small between the lowest-earning candidates.

“It’s possible that the total number  of votes for the lowest vote getter, if those had all gone to the second lowest, they would have actually had more votes than the third lowest,” Carl said. “We couldn’t eliminate them, we had to let that process go through naturally and do the one-by-one elimination.”

As the gap between candidates increases as officials move towards candidates with the most votes, it may allow officials to make batch eliminations of lowest scoring candidates.

As of 6.p.m, elections officials had eliminated 118 write-ins votes for unqualified candidates. They also eliminated from consideration John Charles Wilson, Cyd Gorman and Bob “Again” Carney Jr. Officials reallocated their votes to voters’ second choices.

Carl said election tabulators will continue working on the mayoral race until midnight if necessary. They will resume work Thursday if they don’t finish. City officials have said they expect to finish tabulating ranked-choice votes in all the undecided City Council and other city races by Friday.

Upstairs at Minneapolis City Hall, the Minneapolis Charter Commission approved a proposal that would increase the filing fee for some city offices from $20. Its members are proposing that the mayoral filing fee increase to $500, the City Council fee to $250 and the fee to run for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Board of Estimation and Taxation increase to $100.

The proposal may reduce the amount of candidates who participate in the ranked-choice elections.

Carl said the proposal will head to the City Council, which can add it to the city’s charter if council members approve it unanimously and it’s approved by the mayor. If there isn’t unanimous support for the proposal on the council, voters will need to approve it as a ballot question.

Roann Cramer, vice chair of Minneapolis DFL and a board member of Fair Vote Minnesota, which pushed ranked-choice voting in Minneapolis and other cities, said she was very pleased with how ranked-choice voting had proceeded this election. But she said the system could still be tweaked.

“What we’re seeing right now is that without software that supports it, that we still have some improvement in how we actually get through the ranking and reallocation process,” Cramer said.

The candidates were running to succeed Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who chose not to seek a fourth term.