On Thursday, the City of Minneapolis unveiled sample ballots for November's ranked-choice election that will feature 35 candidates running for mayor. With so many candidates, there's a natural question: Who's on top --of the ballot, that is?
The answer: It depends on where you live, and maybe even the size of your precinct.
Here's the story from the delightfully cheery Grace Wachlarowicz, the city's director of elections.
Initially, all 35 candidates were randomized the old fashioned way -- the names were drawn out of a hat. That determined the sequential order of the candidates, and that order will be the same with every ballot.
What's different, and what's randomized again, is the starting place on the ballot. For example, the colorful candidate Capt. Jack Sparrow may appear first in one precinct, followed by Jackie Cherryhomes. Yet, in another precinct, Jackie Cherryhomes may be first, and that would put Capt. Jack Sparrow at the bottom of the list.
This is my metaphor: Think of the candidates as links on a chain. The order of the links is always the same; the starting place is different.
So, how do we determine where the chain starts? Well, Wachlarowicz says it was randomized again using a complicated algorithm the state provided based on the number of registered voters in each of the 117 Minneapolis election precincts. That order will be the same on every ballot in that particular precinct.
But the more Wachlarowicz and I talked, the more I realized it's not really randomized at all. Obviously, some precincts will have more registered voters than others. The algorithm accounts for that. So, if Capt. Jack Sparrow ends up on top of the ballot in a very large precinct, he probably won't be on top of many smaller precincts. It's not so much randomized, as it is equalized (my terminology here).
With 117 precincts of varying size, every candidate will likely be on top of the ballot in about 3 precincts on average.
The city's sample ballot, broken down by precinct can be found here: http://vote.minneapolismn.gov/rcv/sample