Ranked Choice Voting Spotlight: Phillipe Cunningham

Posted by Pedro Hernandez on November 20, 2017


In Minneapolis, ranked choice voting made history. In the second round of the ranked choice voting (RCV) count, Phillipe Cunningham, a transgender Black man was elected to represent Minneapolis’ 4th Ward.

In a four (4) candidate race for the 4th Ward, Cunningham narrowly trailed Barb Johnson, the incumbent, 40.6% to 42.9% of the first choice votes. With ranked choice voting, Cunningham crossed the 50% majority threshold when the second choices of Dana Hansen and Stephanie Gasca were counted.

Cunningham joins Andrea Jenkins, a transgender Black woman, as the two first transgender candidates to be elected to the Minneapolis City Council. During a press statement, Cunningham elaborated on the role of ranked choice voting in his election:

"[Ranked choice voting] really helped me as a marginalized person have a voice in this election. My favorite thing about ranked choice voting is that it allowed me to build relationships across bases. It wasn't just "either or." Ranked choice voting also allowed my campaign, for us, to be able to remain rooted in our values. From day one, I wanted my campaign to demonstrate the type of Councilmember that I will be. That is, to operated with integrity and be collaborative. Rather than getting caught up in the divisiveness that we typically see in traditional elections, I was able to build power and relationships across differences all across the Ward. We have a really diverse Ward in the 4th Ward.

Additionally, I also wanted to add that ranked choice voting allowed me to build power with another candidate, Stephanie Gasca, who had a similar vision, and similar values for what she wanted to see in North Minneapolis. We were able to work collaboratively together, to build relationships together, rather than tear one another down. Now, as a result of that collaboration, in the 4th Ward, which typically has very low turnout rate, one of the lowest in the city. We saw an increase of 1,400 votes, and also now i’m stepping into office with a friend and an ally that I would have not made otherwise. I am so grateful for ranked choice voting, because it allowed me to demonstrate the kind of Council Member that I will be, which is to operate with integrity and to be collaborative.”

San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro are four cities in California that use ranked choice voting to elect local offices, including Mayors, Supervisors, City Council Members, and School Board Members. Last November, the City of Berkeley elected its first Latino mayor. In that race, Jesse Arreguin won 49.1% of first round vote, defeated Laurie Capitelli 60% to 40% in the final round, and was ranked first, second, or third by 71.4% of voters. In contrast, Capitelli won 32.1% of the first round vote, and was ranked first, second, or third by 58.6% of voters.

The cities of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz are currently considering adopting ranked choice voting to elect its city council.

Click here to read more analysis from the Minneapolis and St. Paul ranked choice voting elections.

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  • Pedro Hernandez