Have questions about the elections counting and tabulation?
Updated Nov. 8, 2013
As anticipated, elections staff were able to complete all tabulation of the 2013 election results in the three days following the election. Under the City’s rules for using ranked-choice voting, election workers had to follow a very specific tabulation process to ensure all votes were properly and accurately accounted for. Here are the answers to some common questions about the counting process:
How does the ranked-choice tabulation process work?
Most races were decided on election night, because a candidate in those races had enough first-choice votes to be declared the winner. For the races that didn’t have an election night winner, including the mayor’s race, the ranked-choice voting tabulation process kicks in. That means the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and his or her votes are reallocated based on the next remaining ranking on those ballots. As tabulation continues, if a voter's second choice candidate was already eliminated, their third choice gets the vote. This process continues through a series of rounds until one candidate reaches the threshold of required votes, and that candidate is declared the winner. To see a basic example of how it works, check out this video.
Why was only one candidate eliminated in many rounds of counting?
Tabulation in the mayor’s race took two days, primarily because of the large number of candidates running for the office. There were 35 candidates, and in each round, the candidate with the lowest number of votes was eliminated. City ordinance requires that as long as a candidate has the potential to pass the candidate ahead of them in a round using second- and third-choice votes, we can only eliminate the lowest candidate in each round. Through most of the mayor’s race tabulation, that meant only one candidate was eliminated in each round. Multiple eliminations were made in the same round in the last two rounds of the mayor’s race, as well as in a number of other races. Those batch eliminations were done in scenarios where several candidates with the lowest totals could not pass the candidates ahead of them. That allowed those candidates to be eliminated at one time.
Is there software that would allow the tabulation to happen faster?
Minneapolis is one of only a handful of cities in the country that use ranked-choice voting, which means that the market for equipment that would process ranked-choice voting is very small. So far, no company in the industry has created a product that can be used to tabulate elections like ours. Software is part of an election system, and election systems must be certified at both the state and federal levels for use in Minnesota. No certified equipment or software exists that would do the tabulation more quickly. The process Minneapolis is using in 2013 is a significant improvement over the last municipal election in 2009. In that election, paper ballots were hand-sorted into groups, hand counted and entered by hand into the spreadsheet. In 2009, it took 13 days to have an official tally in the mayor’s race, and the entire election was canvassed exactly one month after Election Day. All races in this election were counted and finished in three days and will be canvassed next Tuesday, exactly one week after Election Day. It’s significantly faster this year because our new ballot counters produce a data file that elections workers can use to run the tabulation on computers. However, that tabulation is still a manual process of reallocating votes in a spreadsheet, so it does take some time.
Should the tabulation be going faster?
The tabulation worked as it should, and it went smoothly. Although the mayor’s race took more time than anticipated, all counting was complete in three days, as expected. The reason the mayor’s race took time is because of the sheer volume of candidates in the mayor’s race. So one candidate could be eliminated in most rounds, many rounds of tabulation have been needed to redistribute those votes.
Where can I find election results?
Just visit the City’s elections website at vote.minneapolismn.gov.
Published Nov. 7, 2013