Make Smart 2nd & 3rd Choices to Avoid Regrets

When you vote for governor or president here in Minnesota, the candidate with the most votes wins the state. Easy, right? 

Well, it’s not quite that simple with Minneapolis city elections, which use Ranked Choice Voting to decide the winner. When you vote in November for Mayor, City Council and other citywide offices, you can vote for up to three candidates, in your preferred order: 1st choice, 2nd choice and 3rd choice. 

That’s why wherever possible, we endorsed multiple city council candidates per ward. And that’s also why we conclude this post with voting approaches to consider in your ward this November. 

Simply put, with Ranked Choice Voting, for the mayoral and each city council ward race, a candidate must get a majority of votes (50% + 1) to win. If that threshold isn’t reached when all ballots are counted the first time, additional rounds of vote-counting ensue until one candidate eventually hits the mark. 

Starting with the second round, the lowest-ranking candidate is eliminated and that candidate’s voters’ ballots are redistributed to their second-choice pick. 

Put another way, if your 1st-choice candidate is eliminated, your vote moves to your 2nd choice. And if that candidate is dropped, then your vote goes to your 3rd choice.

Tips For Ranked Choice Voting

This electoral process requires you to think more carefully about your choices. Because how you rank candidates may allow one you dislike to easily sneak in during those additional rounds of voting. That’s why it is important to get to know all candidates running in your ward. It isn’t good enough to have one favorite. To help him or her win, you may have to cast a smart 2nd-choice, possibly even 3rd-choice vote.

Here’s what you should keep in mind as you start focusing on who to vote for in November:

  • Always rank your most preferred candidate first
  • If there are others you like, even somewhat, rank them next 
  • However, leave off your ballot entirely any candidates you disagree with. If you include them and the race goes to a 2nd, 3rd, even 4th round, your vote for that candidate may put him or her over the top.

Ranked Choice Voting Tutorials

Ranked Choice Voting Simply Explained

Ranked Choice Voting In Minneapolis

How Ranked Choice Voting Failed Us in 2017

Our city has suffered greatly because of the poorly conceived police defunding pledge taken by nine council members shortly after George Floyd’s death. Beyond that, their inexperience and immaturity have been exposed daily, leaving us to wonder how activists who’ve never run anything of consequence suddenly can be making decisions affecting a $1.5 billion enterprise and our futures.

The answer is that they snuck in the backdoor thanks to Ranked Choice Voting. In fact, three councilmembers whose determination to defund has created bitter divisiveness within their own wards hold a lesson for us all. 

  • Steve Fletcher (Ward 3) lagged badly in second place after his first round of voting, with 28% of ballots. But enough voters marked him as their second or third choice, and he eventually won – barely – with 50.7% of the vote after three rounds.
  • Phillipe Cunningham (Ward 4) was able to pull an upset in the second round when he swept in most of the votes from competitors who dropped out after the first round. Using a strategy of “make me your second choice” paid off; people listened and complied. 
  • Jeremy Schroeder (Ward 11) was tied with the incumbent after the first round, but like Cunningham, in the second round he picked up the lion’s share of votes from competitors who dropped after the first round.


Lessons for 2021

With more of us comfortable with the concept of Ranked Choice Voting this time around, it will be more difficult for clearly unqualified candidates to fool us again. Nonetheless, here are some considerations as the campaign season heats up:

  • Ward 1 – Incumbent Kevin Reich is the only experienced, qualified pragmatic candidate. Strong on police reform, equally forceful against defunding. Making him the only choice on your ballot is wise. Disregard the other two.


  • Ward 3 – Fletcher is facing two challengers whose professional skills and experience make them ready to serve on Day One. Ranking Michael Rainville and Merv Moorhead 1st and 2nd and leaving Fletcher off altogether is your clear strategy here.


  • Ward 4 – This cycle, Cunningham should not be your second or even third choice. This ward has a superior alternative in the experienced and well-liked LaTrisha Vetaw.  Make Becka Thompson your No. 2, and stop there. 


  • Ward 5 – With the superior options in play in this ward, there is no reason to include incumbent Jeremiah Ellison among your top three. Ellison has made a national spectacle of himself dressing down our respected Police Chief Medaria Arradondo at council hearings. Go with Cathy Spann, Victor Martinez and give the young Elijah Norris-Holliday, the face of the next generation, the third slot.


  • Ward 6 – Though currently running unopposed, incumbent Jamal Osman figures to draw challengers eventually. The smartest path here, however, is to include only him on your ballot. When it comes to pragmatic, common-sense thinking paired with a strong pulse on the needs of his community, Osman is impressive.


  • Ward 9 – There is a huge gap between our two endorsees – Mickey Moore and A.J. Flowers, Jr. – and the rest of a crew that lacks experience and perspective. Mark these two, and stop there.


  • Ward 10 – This is the classic 3-choice ward. The endorsed trio of Chris Parsons, David Wheeler and Alicia Gibson are solid choices several tiers above their competitors. 


  • Ward 11 – Schroeder is out of touch with his constituents. They want a balanced approach to public safety policy and he’s talking about a “police-free” future. The obvious path towards sanity here is to mark his two challengers, Dillon Gherna and Emily Koski, first and second, while leaving him off. Either will be a much better fit for this ward.


  • Ward 12 – The surest way to send incumbent Andrew Johnson a message is to choose only small business owner Nancy Ford on this ballot and leave everyone else off. Her decisive, straightforward style offers voters a stark and welcome contrast here.