Spotlight: Bay Area

Ranked choice voting (RCV) is used to conduct municipal elections in several Bay Area cities with notable impacts on elections. Cities save the expense of administering primary or runoff elections. In San Francisco, as of 2015, over 20 elections went to multiple rounds of counting, allowing for strong winners out of competitive races without the need for a high-cost, low turnout runoff. In campaigns across the Bay Area we have seen candidates work to reach out directly to voters. In Oakland there has been a resurgence of grassroots campaigning with emphasis on direct voter outreach, increasing both public awareness of elections and elected official’s connection with their constituents.

Among winners of RCV elections the Bay Area has seen an increase in elected officials from communities that are historically under-represented in local government. With competitive races in all four Bay Area RCV cities, candidates and voters are able to come together and have an in-depth discussion about the future of their cities.

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San Francisco was the first city to switch to RCV, adopting the system to elect all city officials by a charter amendment in 2002 and holding its first RCV elections in 2004. In 2006, Oakland voters passed a charter amendment to adopt RCV for city officials, with 69% of voters in favor of making the switch. In 2010, Berkeley and San Leandro adopted ranked choice voting and in November of 2010 Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro all held their first RCV elections, with Oakland’s highly competitive mayoral election receiving national media attention. In 2011, San Francisco had a series of extremely competitive races with RCV, including Mayor and several Districts on the Board of Supervisors. And in 2012 Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro used RCV for a second time, with competitive races for Berkeley’s mayor, and City Council positions in Oakland and San Leandro.

Jean Quan was elected in 2010 as Oakland’s first female Mayor and in San Francisco 16 of the city’s 18 offices elected by RCV are now held by people of color.

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