Civility in RCV elections in Berkeley

Posted by Jeremy Seitz-brown on August 05, 2016

Two candidates in the Berkeley, California, mayoral race are working together and urging their supporters to rank the other candidate second, providing yet another example of ranked choice voting elections’ ability to incentivize civility.

The cooperating candidates in the nine-candidate race are Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington, two members of the Berkeley City Council. Libby Rainey of the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the cooperation and quotes Worthington as saying “Vote for the two of us in whatever order you prefer. I would be happy to go to a Jesse Arreguin victory celebration and equally happy to go to a Kriss Worthington celebration.”

Worthington and Arreguin both identify as part of a more progressive wing of the City Council that has opposed some of the retiring mayor’s initiatives, and both candidates are opposing the outgoing mayor’s chosen successor, Laurie Capitelli, who is also a member of the City Council. Without ranked choice voting (RCV), there might be pressure for either Worthington or Arreguin to drop out of the race, so as to not split the vote and ensure neither of them wins office. Alternatively, the candidates might have tried attacking each other in order to marginalize one of them in the race and consolidate progressive support. RCV allows them both to run, present their unique perspectives, and maintain civility and cooperation without the fear of vote splitting.

This latest example of civility is in line with FairVote research that has found voters in cities with RCV find their elections to be more positive than voters in cities with plurality elections do. Plurality elections are a zero-sum game that incentivize attacks on opponents, so for those frustrated with negativity and mudslinging in politics, Berkeley has just provided another example that RCV can encourage a more civil politics.

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