Minnesota is actively involved in preparing for this year's election on Nov. 8. With record breaking numbers, voters are ready to cast their ballots on two presidential candidates - Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Alongside federal nominations, Goodhue County also opened early voting for state and local officials, or absentee voting, on Sep. 23rd.
Goodhue County had 990 people register to cast their ballot within the first week of absentee voting. This number bears comparison to the average of 22,000 that register each presidential year, proving a high turn out locally. Amy Hove, Goodhue County auditor-treasurer, discussed the importance of coming early to vote and registering to save some time at the polls come election day.
"We're anticipating really busy polls this election," she said.
Voters can register online through the secretary of state website www.sos.state.mn.us/home/?aspxerrorpath=%2findex.aspx and click "vote early by absentee." Voters have the option to register and vote absentee online or do both in person at the Government Center.
With preparing for elections, voters must commit to researching the candidates and staying active with news and updates in order to make an informed decision next month. This year's federal election has proven to be a real challenge for potential voters due to extremities between candidates. This common issue begs the question of whether or not the country should continue to uphold the voting system for the two parties, republican and democrat, when candidates don't always fit the mold.
Frustrated voters often blame the apathy they face towards election time on the quality of the candidates at stake - when this may not be where the issue lies.
FairVote Minnesota has championed Ranked Choice Voting, which allows voters to rank candidates in order of their preference. The argument holds that this system would be beneficial in times like this, with two radical candidates running for president. It would provide the opportunity to retire the outdated traditional practices and move forward to a new voting system that allows political diversity. Oftentimes, voters don't find themselves able to identify with the cookie-cutter idea of Republican or Democrat. Many Americans actually prefer independent parties, equating to almost half of the population at 42 percent, with 29 percent Democrat and 26 percent Republican.
What is Ranked Choice Voting?
Ranked Choice Voting is defined as a "tested method of voting that allows voters to rank preferences on the ballot - 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice, etc." In a single-seat election, if there isn't a candidate who can win a majority vote of (50%+1) of first choice, the least popular candidate is eliminated. The remaining votes will then be allocated to the voter's next choice. It opens up doors for voters to consider more than one option for the party or parties they identify with - allowing for more parties to exist on the ballot and have a fighting chance.
RCV claims to ensure majority outcomes, give voters more choice, promote civil elections (by having issue-based debates rather than candidates bashing their opponent), simplify the election process and save money, decrease barriers for military voters and uphold the concept of one person, one vote.
According to Stacy Bee, President of FairVote Minnesota, "It will ensure that election results reflect the majority opinion and, in some instances, will allow third party and candidates who are newer to the political arena to compete on a more equal footing with incumbents and major party candidates who are invariably better unfunded."
Who can enforce Ranked Choice Voting? Charter cities, including Red Wing, are capable of adapting to this system. However, in past elections, the city has chosen not to use it. Minneapolis and St. Paul currently have it in place.
Buzz Cummins, board member of FairVote Minnesota, discussed how this could change the way we see politics and how he thinks it may be a solution to the problem.
"It makes it so that negative campaigning really doesn't work very well in the ranked choice voting. It kinda forces people to be more civil to each other. Looking at all the negative ads we see on TV nowadays, it's something we could all hope for."
The system would allow people to vote for more than one candidate they prefer, rather than just having one option on election day. This could eliminate the "wasted vote."
With Minneapolis and St. Paul pursuing RCV, the platform hopes to push the bill to legislature next year and have a stronger turnout with local units of government while also giving every non-charter jurisdiction that wants to use RCV the ability to do so.
For more information on FairVote Minnesota and RCV, visit www.fairvotemn.org.
Republican Eagle reporter Kit Murray contributed to this story.