December 3, 2010
FAQ: Ranked-Choice Voting and the San Leandro Mayor’s Race
- Out of all San Leandro voters who participated in the mayoral race, 99.8% cast a valid ballot.
- 75% of San Leandro voters used RCV to express a preference between two or more candidates for mayor.
- 11% more San Leandro voters participated in this year's mayoral election than the November 2006 election. More voters cast ballots in the final round of the RCV race between Stephen Cassidy and Tony Santos than voted in the 2006 election.
- 54% more voters participated in this year's RCV mayoral election than participated in the June 2006 first round vote for mayor. This means that far more voters took the opportunity to choose among the entire field of mayoral candidates than in the previous election. Under the old system, many races were decided in these low-turnout first round elections.
- With RCV, the winner is the candidate who has a broad base and is preferred by the most voters in that election. Stephen Cassidy defeated Tony Santos because more voters ranked Cassidy ahead of Santos on their ballots.
- The final election result is a clear reflection of voters' preferences. Cassidy wins when compared individually to every other candidate in the race. Santos, of course, loses by 232 votes to Cassidy. Furthermore, Cassidy wins by a greater margin than Santos when compared individually to each of the non-finalist candidates.
- As Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave Macdonald recently pointed out on PBS NewsHour, running the RCV tally takes only a few minutes. Any delay in determining the winner of San Leandro's RCV mayoral election was due to the time it took to process absentee and provisional ballots and the county's current policy on the timing of RCV tabulations.
How did San Leandro voters handle the new ranked-choice voting method?
Out of all San Leandro voters who participated in the mayoral race, 99.8% cast a valid ballot. Furthermore, the great majority of voters ranked more than one candidate: 60% of San Leandro voters ranked three different candidates, 15% of San Leandro voters ranked two different candidates and 25% of voters chose to rank only one candidate. Even among voters who did not rank three different candidates, four in five had their ballot count in every round of counting -- including the final round between Stephen Cassidy and Tony Santos.
Only a small handful of voters -- 55 individuals, or 0.2% of the total -- cast an invalid ballot. Since Cassidy's margin of victory was 232 votes, these ballots could not have changed the outcome of the election even if they had all been cast for second-place candidate Santos.
These results testify to the effectiveness of the voter education efforts undertaken by Alameda County officials and other groups in the months leading up to the election. On Election Day, the overwhelming majority of San Leandro voters successfully used the RCV system to cast a meaningful ballot and express their preferences among the mayoral candidates.
How did ranked-choice voting impact participation in the election?
More San Leandro voters participated in electing the mayor in 2010 than in 2006. A total of 22,484 San Leandro residents voted in the mayoral election. This compares to only 20,298 voters in the November 2006 election won by outgoing mayor Tony Santos. Thus, 11% more voters have participated in this year's mayoral election, the first in which ranked-choice voting has been used, compared to the previous mayoral election. More voters cast ballots in the final round of the RCV race between Stephen Cassidy and Tony Santos than voted in the 2006 election.
The use of RCV also allowed far more voters to participate in evaluating the entire field of candidates than under the old system. In the June 2006 mayoral vote, just 14,568 San Leandro voters participated. This year's general election turnout of 22,484 was a 54% increase over the June 2006 vote. By eliminating the need for a low-turnout first round election, RCV allowed more San Leandro voters to participate in the process of selecting a mayor from the full range of available candidates.
How close were the results of the election?
The mayoral election was close, but Stephen Cassidy was the clear choice of San Leandro voters. Cassidy won by 232 votes over runner-up Tony Santos. Furthermore, the results show that Cassidy wins when compared head-to-head with every other candidate in the race. Although the reason that Cassidy won is that he had more support than the other highest vote-getter, Cassidy also wins over every other candidates by a greater margin than Santos does.
Margin of Victory
|vs. Stephen Cassidy||vs. Tony Santos||vs. Joyce Starosciak||vs. Sara Mestas||vs. John Palau||vs. Lou Filipovich||vs. Write-In|
|Stephen Cassidy||---||+232||+2,013||+ 10,226||+12,361||+ 14,561||+14,349|
|Tony Santos||-232 (Loss)||---||+1,435||+ 9,086||+11, 173||+ 13,911||+13,687|
Why did it take several days to determine the winner of the election?
In Alameda County, a large number of voters chose to vote by absentee ballot. Because each absentee ballot must be opened and verified by hand, it takes a long time to process them. Provisional ballots also take a long time to process because each one must be researched to ensure that the voter is eligible to vote.
This slow process is unrelated to RCV. After all, the statewide contest for Attorney General also took a long time to determine the winner due to the closeness of the contest and the need to process so many absentee and provisional ballots. Whether for RCV or non-RCV contests, if an election is close, all the absentee and provisional ballots must be tallied before you can be sure of who the winner is.
How long does it take to run the RCV tally?
As Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave Macdonald recently pointed out on PBS NewsHour, running the RCV tally is easy and takes only about five minutes per race. It's as simple as walking to your laptop computer, hitting a few keystrokes on your keyboard giving the command to run the tally, and two minutes later you have the results for 100,000 ballots. It is really fast. Running the tally automatically generates the round by round vote total reports like the type you can see on the Registrar of Voters website at http://www.acgov.org/rov/rcv/results/rcvresults_2984.htm. Also, it takes no additional time to scan 2nd and 3rd choice rankings on voters’ ballots because those rankings are automatically scanned into the system at the same time as voters’ 1st choices.