Disappointed, But Still Optimistic

Posted by Jennifer Pae on October 04, 2016

In 2010, I sat in Oakland City Hall listening to the debate about whether ranked choice voting (RCV) should be implemented for that election year, despite the fact that in 2006, voters had overwhelmingly supported ranked choice voting to be adopted by a margin of 69% to 31%. Oakland voters knew that consolidating a June primary to a general election was more just and fair because turnout is highest and more diverse in November.

This conversation was only made possible because Oakland is a charter city and voters were able to make this decision. The type of election system a community uses has a direct impact on the type of representation people get. Unfortunately, under current state law, general law cities and many kinds of districts must use a single-round “plurality” voting method, also known as "winner-take-all" or "first-past-the-post." Whatever it is called, plurality voting can have terrible results because of vote splitting and the spoiler effect. Without a majority requirement, a crowded field of three or more candidates could mean a winner is declared with a third of the vote or less because too many similar candidates can split the vote.

In contrast, state law prohibits general law counties from using a plurality system. Instead, it requires that they must use a majority two-round runoff system, even as it bizarrely prohibits general law cities from doing so. SB 1288 would have given both cities and counties more options, including an efficient single-round majority system in the form of ranked choice voting.

SB 1288 provided an opportunity for all California communities to have more options, just like Oakland, so they can better select an election method that reflects the will of the people and their needs. It is disappointing that Governor Jerry Brown decided to veto SB 1288. I agree with Governor Brown, we want to encourage more voter participation, especially since California’s voter turnout has been at record lows.

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Image courtesy: daveynin

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