From April 10th-12th, the University of California, Berkeley elected its student government using ranked choice voting. Like 15 other schools in California and over 50 schools across the United States, Berkeley uses ranked choice voting (RCV) for its student government elections. UC Berkeley has been using RCV for its executive elections and multi-winner RCV, also known as a single transferable vote, for its Senate elections since at least 1967.
Continuing its tradition of high levels of student engagement, 36% of Berkeley’s roughly 27,0000 undergraduate students voted in this year’s ASUC election. This level of turnout is indicative of the dynamic political climate at Berkeley, making RCV a tool that enhances political competition. Breaking away from a recent trend of single ticket election sweeps, this year’s five-member executive team is composed of members from two different parties and an independent. In Senate elections, members of three different student tickets and four independents were able to win seats in the 20-member student senate.
The excitement and energy surrounding RCV during UC Berkeley elections is a reflection of California’s interest in alternative voting methods beyond the confines of college campuses. Four California cities already use RCV to elect their local government and the California Democratic Party encourages the use of ranked choice voting for state and local elections in its party platform. RCV elections create high levels of excitement because voters go to the polls knowing that their RCV ballot enhances their ability to make a real choice between candidates and to have their voice heard. This is what that excitement looks like: