Minneapolis begins counting of instant runoff ballotsby Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Minneapolis elections officials started hand counting ballots Wednesday, a day after voters used instant runoff voting for the first time.
The count will determine the winner in a handful of races where no candidate received a majority of the first choice votes. Those races include two city council seats and five Park and Recreation board seats.
Elections staffers have to count all the ballots by hand, as there are no machines certified under federal or state law that can count instant runoff voting ballots.
But city officials expect the count will be finished sooner than the original Dec. 21 benchmark, due to low voter turnout.
About 46,000 Minneapolis residents voted Tuesday, representing about 21 percent of registered voters. Officials had planned for a turnout of about 70,000 voters.
Interim elections director Pat O'Connor said that although some results may be available within a few weeks, officials do not plan to rush the process.
"We would like this first count to go slowly so that people understand what ranked choice voting is all about," O'Connor said. "I think in our daily lives, we're used to computers doing the most incredibly complicated things, and we lose track of what really is happening inside that little box."
Elections officials count the instant runoff voting ballots in rounds. If no candidate has a majority of the first choice votes, then the candidate in last place is eliminated. If you voted for that candidate, your vote moves to your second choice. But if you don't have a second choice, then your vote stops counting in that race.
City council candidates in Ward Four and Ward Five fell just short of receiving a majority of votes. In Ward Four, Barbara Johnson received 46.9 percent of the vote. In Ward Five, Don Samuels leads with 47 percent.
About 250 elections staffers will count the ballots by ward, working in 125-person shifts, six days a week. O'Connor said the cost will be off-set by the savings from not having a primary.