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October 24, 2014

Making sense of next week’s Minneapolis mayor’s race

Candidates for Minneapolis mayor – all 35 of them – have about a week left to make their case to voters.

The Nov. 5 election is both a test for the candidates and the city’s controversial and relatively untested ranked-choice voting system in which voters are directed to rank their top three choices in order. The city has used the new ranked-choice system just once before, in 2009, which was not a competitive race.

The winner of the “weird, wide-open” race could be one of two city council members, a former county commissioner – or Captain Jack Sparrow, the Associated Press notes. “It’s like mayor soup,” one bewildered Minneapolis voter tells the AP.

Only two larger U.S. cities, Oakland, Calif., and San Francisco, have used ranked-choice voting in a competitive mayoral election, the Star Tribune notes. One important takeaway from those races: second and third choices truly matter – so don’t vote for just one candidate, the newspaper notes. (The Star Tribune picked its top three choices: Betsy Hodges, Don Samuels and Jackie Cherryhomes.)

In ranked-choice voting, to win the race, a candidate must get 50 percent, plus one vote. The Star Tribune explains how a series of elimination rounds is triggered if no one gets 50 percent: “Candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated by round. If a voter’s top choice is nixed, their vote is then redistributed to their next-choice candidate. It continues until a candidate garners more than 50 percent of the remaining votes.”

The city has more info on how ranked-choice voting works, plus a 2-minute video and a sample-ballot exercise that endeavor to explain it.

Eight of the nearly three dozen candidates have mounted structured campaigns. There have been visible differences in the race this year, among them: fewer yard signs, fewer news conferences, more forums and debates (where not a lot has been said) and much more use of social media, MinnPost noted earlier this month.

A Star Tribune poll last month showed no clear leader in the race.

For more info on the candidates, check out MPR News and the Star Tribune for profiles.