MN voter advocacy group calls Duluth City Council vote into question

By KBJR News 1

February 13, 2014 Updated Feb 13, 2014 at 6:15 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - After casting his first votes just two days ago, UW – Superior History Professor Joel Sipress's appointment to the Duluth City Council Monday night has been called into question by a voting advocacy group.

FairVote Minnesota's Executive Director Jeanne Massey wrote a letter to the council Wednesday that explains why the process used by the council to vote in Sipress was not ranked–choice voting.

In the letter, Massey writes: "FairVote Minnesota is not attached to the outcome of this week's vote by the Duluth City Council, but it is important to set the record straight and clarify that the vote, which resulted in the appointment of Joel Sipress to fill the vacant seat, was not a Ranked Choice Voting election."

It goes on to say, had it been a correctly run Ranked Choice Voting election, there still would have been a tie between Kathy Heltzer and Sipress.

Both candidates were part of a group of three finalists vying to fill the seat left open after Patrick Boyle was elected to the Saint Louis County Board.

The deadlocked city council took a brief recess Monday night after six rounds of voting failed to yield a simple majority winner.

Shortly after they reconvened, City Clerk Jeff Cox and City Attorney Gunnar Johnson announced Sipress had been deemed the winner after consulting with staff from FairVote Minnesota.

"We just want to move forward with integrity, and make sure we're airing the fact that there was a mistake that was made," said 1st Dist. Duluth City Councilor Jennifer Julsrud in response to the letter.

She added the confusion only reinforces her doubts about ranked–choice voting.

"It was twice a tie in both ranked–choice voting votes, and we appointed someone based on some false information," said Julsrud Thursday morning, "so, I think it's important that we acknowledge the mistake, take responsibility for it, and determine how we're going to move forward as a body together."

She, along with Council President Linda Krug, believe the most appropriate solution is to hold another special session where all three finalists will be reconsidered.

Julsrud says the council is starting to put forward dates for such a session, possibly as early as next Thursday, but other options could be considered.

According to Julsrud, Sipress feels like the situation calls for the guidance of the other eight councilors. He plans to stand aside and let the next steps unfold.

SEE ALSO:

Joel Sipress appointed newest Duluth City Council member

Billy Wagness
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