Ranked choice voting (RCV) is coming to Palm Desert, California.
The city of Palm Desert has agreed to adopt ranked choice voting to settle a lawsuit brought under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) to fix vote dilution faced by its Latino population. Under the plan, Palm Desert’s city council will be elected from two districts. One district will elect a single councilmember using the single-winner form of RCV. The other, larger district will elect four councilmembers using the proportional, multi-winner form of RCV.
Last year, Eastpointe, Michigan became the first jurisdiction in the country to adopt RCV as the result of a lawsuit brought under the federal Voting Rights Act--and now Palm Desert has become the first to adopt it under the CVRA. California passed the CVRA in 2001 as a tool to combat vote dilution in local elections.
Vote dilution can occur in at-large elections that use winner-take-all voting methods (like block voting), which can prevent minority groups from gaining representation in places with racially polarized voting.
While the typical remedy in those situations is to order the jurisdiction to switch to single-winner district elections, using a proportional (like the multi-winner form of RCV) or semi-proportional (like cumulative voting) voting method in an at-large election can be an even more effective remedy, depending on the specific local circumstances. Courts are increasingly considering voting methods like RCV to address the problem of vote dilution and ensure that elections are more fair and equal.