Why the Minneapolis mayor’s race is taking so long to count

It’s looking increasingly unlikely that Minneapolis will announce the winner of its hotly contested mayor’s race tonight, even though Mark Andrew has conceded and frontrunner Betsy Hodges is scheduled to address supporters at 8:30.

The city has been counting votes for more than six hours, and Hodges remains more than 10,000 votes shy of the official threshold for victory.

Election officials have been painstakingly eliminating candidates, one by one, starting with the write-ins, and redistributing votes to second- and third-choice candidates. But after seven rounds, the most popular candidate they’ve eliminated is James “Jimmy” L. Stroud, Jr. Stroud received just 68 first-choice votes.

City ordinances theoretically allow tabulators to eliminate more than one candidate per round, but they haven’t been able to do that, because the law narrowly defines what “mathematically impossible to be elected” means.

The definition says the only candidates that have no chance are the ones that can never emerge from last place. But it doesn’t consider whether they could ever make it to first place.

The only candidates that actually have a mathematical chance of winning the race are Hodges, Andrew and Samuels. None of the others garnered enough second and third choice votes to make it to first place.

But the ordinance doesn’t acknowledge that reality. Even if fourth-place Cam Winton could realize all of his second- and third-choice votes, he’d still have just 15,000 votes. Hodges has almost 29,000 first-choice votes, alone.

So election officials have to eliminate candidates one at a time. Each round has taken at least half an hour to complete. Unless that pace increases, it’s hard to imagine the counting will be finished before the tabulators go home at midnight.