Public Meeting Review: March

Published by Minnesota Atheists on

By Heather Hegi

Before the meeting began, August ran the business meeting. One interesting update is that August will be speaking on a religious discussion panel of five speakers at Eagle Ridge Academy (event is not open to the public). Member Bob Maline gave us an impromptu presentation on top five voting efforts in Wisconsin with which he is involved, which was pretty interesting and a good lead-in to our main presentation.

FairVote Minnesota has been around for 20 years, and Laura Calbone, our featured speaker, has been involved with it for 5 years. She had us raise our hands if we live in Minneapolis, St Paul, or Bloomington. These are cities that already have Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). She then proceeded into talking about how the current system isn’t working. She showed us the 2022 Economist Democracy Index where the United States ranks down in the “flawed democracy” category among countries. The two-party system doesn’t work, especially when more people identify as independent than with either of the 2 parties. Republicans have financed Marijuana Party candidates to run in order to spoil the vote.

One benefit of RCV is that it eliminates the need for a primary in non-partisan elections. Early voters don’t have to worry about their vote being wasted if their favorite candidate drops out. Our current system punishes candidates for reaching across the aisle, but with RCV, candidates need to appeal to a greater base and not be negative. She gave a great example from a three-way race in Alaska between two Republicans (one being Sarah Palin) and a Democrat. Sarah Palin ran a negative campaign, bashing both the Democrat and other Republican. The Democrat, Mary Peltola, ran a positive campaign to appeal to a broader audience. Ranked choice voting allowed for the votes for the candidate that came in third (the other Republican) to be dispersed among their second-choice candidates. Because the Democrat, Mary Pelota, who ran a positive campaign, was the second pick on many ballots, and she was able to win the election!

An RCV bill has been proposed that includes funding for education, which I think is a must in order for the public to feel relatively okay about the switch. They need to understand it. The proposed bill doesn’t make RCV mandatory but adds it as an option. If you want to promote this bill, FairVote Minnesota wants you to attend events and legislature hearings. Also, host a house party to educate people about it.

Right now RCV is a manual process with the cast vote recorded on a spreadsheet (the cast vote is public record so the process can be verified). There is software that can calculate the results quicker, that FairVote wants to make sure gets certified, so we may use it in Minnesota. She then spent a little bit of time talking about the National Popular Vote effort. This is a compact that Minnesota joined last year.

Overall, it was a really informative event. Not so much tied to atheism, but with Christian Nationalism rising, we must do what we can to make sure our vote system is fair and promotes candidates who have broader appeal and are not extremist.

Categories: Articles

Minnesota Atheists

Positive Atheism in Action Since 1991