Peter Zuniga never envisioned he would argue a case in front of the Minnesota Supreme Court when he accepted the deputy city attorney job for Bloomington in 2019, but when he landed there to defend the City Council’s decision to reject a proposed charter amendment related to ranked-choice voting, he embraced the opportunity.
When Bloomington voters narrowly approved ranked-choice voting in November 2020, Zuniga helped create the framework for implementing the system in future local elections.
The system, which allows voters to rank candidates for office in order of preference, was implemented for the first time in the 2021 municipal election. In June of 2022, a group of Bloomington residents submitted a proposed charter amendment petition to eliminate it and return to the single candidate voting model.
As Zuniga explains, the City Council rejected the group’s proposed charter amendment because of an unconstitutional provision, so the group filed a petition in District Court. When a District Court judge ruled against the group, it petitioned to bypass the court of appeals and go directly to the state Supreme Court for an expedited review.
“Depending upon how you look at it, I was the lucky one who got to handle it,” Zuniga said, recalling the nervousness it initially caused. “You get nervous about the enormity of the task, but it’s a career-defining moment and you just have to prepare.”
He credits the support of an experienced and diligent team and colleagues for helping him be fully prepared by the time he presented the city’s case to Supreme Court judges in November. A ruling is forthcoming. “I was happy with the way it went, and I’m confident in the argument we made,” Zuniga said.