Lenora Chu, Pioneer Press
Date: February 6, 2004

The Senate Elections Committee passed on a 5-2 vote Thursday a bill that would allow Minnesota cities the option of using alternative voting methods in municipal elections.

Supporters in Roseville hope the Legislature will quickly pass the bill so the city can adopt instant runoff voting -- whereby voters rank candidates in order of preference -- for an April 20 special City Council election.

"It's very tough to get a bill passed here very quickly, especially something new like this," said Sen. John Marty, a Roseville DFLer and sponsor of the bill. "But I'm hopeful."

In early January, the Roseville City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking the Legislature to allow them the instant-runoff option.

In a race with more than two candidates, instant-runoff voting ensures that the winner takes office with more than 50 percent of the vote.

It can save money by eliminating the need for a primary in nonpartisan elections such as those for mayor and City Council.

The measure, which also requires electronic voting systems purchased after July 1 to support alternative voting methods, could be taken up on the Senate floor as early as next week, Marty said.

Rep. Jim Rhodes, who chairs the committee that will be the companion bill's first stop in the House, has said he recognizes the need for a speedy hearing.

2004 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.