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

  1. Listen MPR’s Curtis Gilbert discusses the tabulating process in the Minneapolis mayoral race

    Nov. 6, 2013

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.

  • jmj

    so, why can’t they just have a computer program do the elimination rounds one by one? A very simple computer program could calculate the winner within seconds… It seems nonsensical that each round should take half an hour.

    • There is one. It needs to be federally certified before they’re allowed to use it.

  • ellie

    It would not have been difficult to write the computer program they need in the time it has taken them to reallocate the 14 lowest candidates.

    Or write it and test it extensively in the weeks coming up to the election. A significant portion of the Minneapolis population is able to write a computer program this simple. There would be nothing difficult about it. It would be nowhere near the complexity of many of the programs we use every day (such as the software that allows me to leave this comment).

    They use a computer to count the ballots. How is this different?

    I was astonished that the results were not available within minutes of the last precinct reporting. It was only the next morning that I discovered these votes were going to be reallocated by hand.

    The possibility for errors continue to mount, as they do these hand reallocations.

    On the plus side, for us computer nerds, this is funnier than the usual sitcom.

  • Tom

    Even under the narrow definition of batch elimination given in the statute, candidates should have been eliminated in batches.

    At the first round, the bottom four candidates, in order from lowest to highest total votes were the Write-Ins, John Charles Wilson, Cyd Gorman and Bob Carney. In the next round, Write-Ins were eliminated and the votes redistributed. The order at the bottom did not change — the one vote transferred to JCW was not enough to move him ahead of Cyd Gorman. Consequently, JCW was defeated in the next round and his votes redistributed. Transferring 0 votes from JCW supporters to Gorman supporters did not give Gorman enough support to move ahead of Carney. And again, transferring Gorman votes to Carney were not enough to move Carney ahead of the next vote getters.

    The first time we see a shift in the order of the bottom of the list is in Round 6, where Jimmy Stroud moved ahead of Rahn Workcuff thanks to transferred votes of defeated candidates.

    So why weren’t Wilson, Gorman, and Carney defeated simultaneously in the same round?