Court Rules IRV Constitutional? Not Quite

gavelThe AP and other elitist media organs are reporting that the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that IRV or what they are now calling “ranked choice voting” is constitutional.  This is not accurate.

The AP article listed on said: ” But the Supreme Court said the IRV method adopted by Minneapolis does not violate the U.S. or Minnesota constitutions, so Minneapolis is free to try it. The decision affirmed a lower-court decision that also backed the system.”

Minneapolis will be allowed to implement IRV, but the above statement is FALSE.  The Court did NOT rule IRV constitutional.  Neither did the District Court. 

The District Court agreed with the Minnesota Voters Alliance claims that IRV is non-monotonic, i.e. that a voter can harm his favorite candidate by raising that candidate in rank, but merely ruled that since the same law applied to everyone it was “an acceptable risk.”

The Minnesota Supreme Court side-stepped the constitutional issue by ruling that because the lawsuit was making claims about what could happen or might happen in the future, and not about things that have happened, that the plaintiffs didn’t prove their case. 

In other words, they effectively dismissed the case because there was no actual election from which to derive facts and show that an actual disenfranchisement occured.  The ruling was based on a flimsy technicality.

The Supreme Court made the same mistake the District Court made in ignoring the constitutional arguments and jumping on the “let’s-see-what-happens” bandwagon – clearly a dereliction of their judicial duty. 

The Court said regarding the claims that IRV will save money and make elections more fair, etc.: “Whether and to what degree implementation of IRV will achieve those benefits remains to be seen.  But it is plausible that IRV may advance one or more of these interests.”

So, the Court ruled against the plainiff because the complaint was merely about what could or might happen, yet ruled for IRV because of benefits it may provide.  This is judicial self-contradiction!

But the good news is that IRV is still open to constitutional challenge once an actual IRV election takes place in Minnesota. 

The Minnesota Voters Alliance plans to be there when the chaos caused by IRV is in full view to everyone so that even a supreme court justice can’t ignore it.

– Matt Marchetti

*This is not necessarily the official position of the MN Voters Alliance

You can see attorney Erick Kaardal’s response here:


4 Responses to Court Rules IRV Constitutional? Not Quite

  1. Jeff Maas says:

    I just have to note that while it may feel nice for folks who are licking their (increasingly serious) wounds to toss around rhetorical flourishes like “flimsy technicality”, and “judicial self-contradiction”, the reality is that facial challenges to new laws are VERY difficult to mount in all cases. And when the disputed law was enacted not by a judge or a legislature but by direct electoral action, this outcome seems fairly straight-forward and unremarkable. Courts prefer not to reach the constitutional question when there is a non-constitutional rationale available; that is a basic legal principle learned by all first year law students (try googling “constitutional question avoid”, if you don’t trust me, but I refuse to cite such a basic concept)). To attack it as “flimsy” is either ignorant or disingenous. Calling the judges at both the district and supreme court level “mistake(n)” comes off as sour grapes. You folks could do better (and did so, thankfully, in the newspaper articles — where your attorney noted that this was just the start and that the “as-applied” challenge would be another step in the process). You’ll get more days in court, but this attitude of MVA — that every other position is wrong but your own — is, frankly, offensive to my democratic, pluralistic sensibilities.

  2. matt says:

    Thanks for your knowledge of legal procedures, but far from licking our wounds (as if that isn’t a “rhetorical flourish”) we are licking our chops.

    We see this as a setback, no doubt, but we also see it as a blueprint for filing future as-applied challenges.

    If your sensibilities are offended, sorry, but this is a blog, where we can blow off steam and where others can tell us off.

    I don’t deny that it may not be a “flimsy” technicality, but when there is legal precedent, and when the courts (both the district and the supreme court) admit that voters can harm their preferred candidate by voting FOR that candidate, and then turn around and rule the way they did, seems contradictory at best – to “laymen” like me.

    Maybe facial challenges to “new” laws are very difficult to mount, but 1) this isn’t a new law, it’s a slight modification of a system that is iver 100 years old and has a poor track record of catching on with voters for the very reasons we cite in our brief, and 2) maybe facial challenges shouldn’t be that difficult….

    The attitude that we’re right and everyone else is wrong is a better description of the pro-IRV crowd – especially in light of the snobbish condescension present in almost every response to our various editorials we’ve managed to get published.

    Nevertheless, I do thank you for your response.

  3. Yeah, I would just like to comment with regard to the lies that your organization is telling the public about IRV. I whole-heartedly support IRV. Having both a primary and general election is wasteful and expensive. I will not sit quietly while the so-called “Minnesota Voters Alliance” misrepresents IRV and tries to limit the options of the new silent majority (i.e. moderate and independent voters). The Minnesota Voters Alliance is the political equivalent of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

  4. matt says:

    Disagreeing with you is not lying. You discredit yourself by calling people liars.

    IRV will not save one dime – as was confirmed by Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky.

    We are not trying to limit options. With no primary you will no longer have the opportunity to choose your candidate to run in the general election. That means IRV limits your options!

    People who think IRV will help “third parties” are uninformed and muisguided. IRV will homogenize elections making it virtually impossible for anyone except the bureaucratic elite political insiders to win an election. That’s the whole purpose of it.

    They are telling you that IRV will help your coause, when it will actually take your options away.

    How? You may ask. It goes to the structure of ranked choice voting – where even the MN Supreme Court acknowledged that in IRV a voter cannot be sure if he is helping or hurting his favotrite candidate.

    The court brushed this off as merely “disconcerting,” but it is way more than just that.

    How can anyone support a system in which a voter can’t even know that his vote for a candidate is going to count as a vote FOR that candidate and not as a vote against him?

    There are many other sever problems with ranked choice voting, but this one is one of the worst.

    With all due respect, I think you need to inform yourself a little better.

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