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The results of a ballot question in St. Paul, Minnesota that would change the way voters elect municipal officials remain in a state of limbo Monday. Both sides are awaiting the result of a court challenge that claims the measure passed, in large part, because supporters of the change falsely claimed it was backed by President Barack Obama.
The measure to implement Instant Runoff Voting, or IRV, passed narrowly last Tuesday winning just over 52 percent of the vote. IRV is a method of voting that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference—so you can identify a second or even third choice for one office on the same ballot. The ballots are usually counted over more than one round of voting, eliminating the worst performing candidates until one wins a majority.
Supporters of the measure, led by the group Fair Vote Minnesota, claimed support from President Obama, the DFL (Minnesota’s Democratic Party) and the League of Women Voters. Opponent Chuck Repke, calls all three claims a lie.
“These folks deliberately lied to link their campaign to the DFL and President Obama just to win this election,” Repke, who heads the No Bad Ballots Committee, tells Politics. He says the claims of support emerged on the campaign’s literature just days before Election Day, and Repke says he didn’t have the resources to counter them.
The legal challenge is centered on a Minnesota state law that requires candidates and campaigns to have a signed letter from any person or third party they claim support from. “It’s a well known and well understood state law,” Repke insists.
“It’s a very odd law, but it’s a law nonetheless,” says Ellen Brown, spokeswoman for the St. Paul Better Ballot campaign. “But we certainly weren’t aware of it.”
While the campaign admits that it doesn’t have a signed letter of support from the president, Brown says the campaign was never claiming the president explicitly backed the St. Paul initiative, but rather that he supported IRV in principle. Brown cited a bill introduced in 2002 in the Illinois legislature by then-State Senator Obama, which would have adopted IRV for certain contests in that state.
“The people we listed [as supporters] have spoken in favor of IRV in concept,” Brown says. “I would hope the president has other things on his mind than a ballot initiative in St. Paul.”
After a hearing last week, a judge has until Monday afternoon to decide whether the complaint filed by Repke’s group should move forward. Repke says he’s confident last Tuesday’s results will eventually be thrown out and a re-vote will be set for 2010.
*UPDATE: A Minnesota court decided Monday the complaint against the St. Paul Better Ballot Committee will move forward. Another hearing is set for November 18.
Shane D’Aprile is senior editor at Politics magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Court to Decide Whether Campaign Falsely Claimed President's Support
**Post updated belowThe results of a ballot question in St....
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