Did you know that people can get their names on an election ballot without paying a filing fee, if they get enough signatures on a petition? Fourth Ward Minneapolis City Council candidate Kris Brogan, after hearing from folks she said were disappointed and wanted a real choice in the upcoming election, set out to get the required number (based on number of voters in the previous election), surpassed it by 100 names, and is on the ballot. She got 267, which, she points out, is twice the number of delegates whose votes endorsed incumbent Barb Johnson at the DFL Convention.
Minneapolis’ ranked choice voting system, which eliminates the primary election and places all properly-filed candidates on the November ballot, was meant to offer and preserve choices, to honor the will of the general populace that doesn’t have the patience to sit and politick through endorsing conventions. We’ve editorialized before about how in the old system of party primaries, it was hard for other qualified, real candidates to be heard when party faithfuls wanted the top spots.
Faced with the prospect of getting 35 mayoral candidates’ opinions in writing or at a forum, we bet some media people are thinking twice about supporting ranked choice voting. We suggest a less radical solution: Require all candidates to present petitions with a substantial number of voters’ signatures. This would ensure that a candidate makes a commitment to the electoral process beyond the filing-fee
Of course, it has long been true that anyone with $20 could file, and use their pre-convention, pre-primary time to test the waters, or frankly, just get their opinions out there when and if invited to forums or invited to answer media questions. It’s ironic that, in our experience, with such a wonderful opportunity there are some folks who file and then don’t respond to our questionnaires or requests for interviews.
It’s been suggested that the filing fee should be increased, to keep the number of candidates down. The petition requirement, however, would be more fair and effective, and would eliminate any suggestion of a "means test" for candidates.
The almost-free-for-all mayoral filings will give Minneapolis voters a taste of one of rank choice voting’s potential downfalls—so many candidates that voters are overwhelmed if they try to learn about all of them. A few "tweaks" to the filing system, however, could eliminate non-serious candidates and ensure that those who file have been around enough blocks to convince a substantial number of voters that they’re qualified to hold office.