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Richmond to Discuss Ranked Choice Voting

by CC News
Ranked Choice

On Tuesday, the Richmond City Council will consider a possible ballot measure to transition to a ranked choice voting system.

If approved, it would direct staff to further examine the issue and draft a ballot measure language and related ordinance for the city council to consider at a future meeting. Thus, moving away from its current municipal voting method.

Currently, Richmond uses what’s known as a “plurality election” system, in which the candidate who receives the most votes in their particular race becomes the elected official for that seat. The staff report highlights several issues with plurality voting, which include:

  • In almost every plurality election, many voters are represented by someone who they did not help elect.
  • In plurality elections, candidates are incentivized to campaign against one another, which makes negative campaigning a more appealing strategy. The political polarization that results may last beyond the election season.
  • Plurality voting is sensitive to the spoiler effect, a paradoxical situation where a losing candidate has the power to change the winner by siphoning off votes (i.e., “splitting the vote”).
  • Because of the spoiler effect, plurality voting encourages people to vote for a candidate they think can win even if it is not their favorite candidate in the race. This makes it difficult for new candidates to successfully run for office

According to the staff report, it claims the city is still grappling with the longstanding stranglehold of Chevron on its politics.  The staff report continues:

“California voters, in particular, feel their contributions to federal elections are negligible; municipal elections are therefore a place where our state’s voters are most able to impact politics, their governing bodies, and the decisions that impact their daily lives. All of this, combined with the trend of relatively low voter turnout in the City of Richmond, demands that we consider a new voting system that more accurately reflects Richmond’s electorate.”

Richmond Election Reform Act Already Coming to November Ballot

In an effort to address the plurality voting system, a ballot reform measure is forthcoming on the November Ballot—essentially adding another election to each cycle. — see reform act text.

The first round would occur during the state primary. In this system, candidates face off in April of each election yea. If a candidate has more than 50% of the vote during this primary, they win. If no candidate has more than 50%, the top two vote-getters from the primary will then be voted on in a runoff during the general election. This is similar to the top-two system with open primaries used by the state. Either way, the winning candidate will have 50%+1 of the vote whether it is in the primary or in the general election.

The staff report argues the ballot Initiative is problematic due to costs and lower voter turnouts—Richmond Primary had 33% fewer voters than the general election.

In response to this act already on the November ballot, Richmond progressives are now pushing for ranked choice in an attempt to ensure their candidates stay in office.

Staff Report Advocates for Instant Runoff Voting (Ranked Choice)

This method, which avoids the extra election costs and the low turnout issues of a primary, has already been adopted by such neighboring cities as Albany, Oakland, and San Francisco.

Under IRV, there is only one municipal election, and it takes place in November. It works like this: voters rank the candidates in order of preference, instead of picking just one candidate. If a candidate gets more than 50% of the votes, that candidate wins. But if no one gets more than 50% of the vote, an instant run-off happens. Using election software, whoever is in last place is automatically eliminated, and the 2nd choice of those voters are counted.

Thus, if your first-choice gets eliminated, your vote goes to your second choice candidate. If there is still no candidate with more than 50%, the process is repeated until someone gets a majority of the votes. In other words, a voter’s preferences will be taken into account every step of the way. Even if a voter’s top candidate does not win, that voter’s second (or third, etc) choice candidate might still be elected under this voting system.

According to the presentation:

CalRCV

  • Ranked choice voting is used by cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro, Redondo Beach and Palm Dessert.
  • Majority Winner in One Election – candidates win with majority support
  • Diversity – claims its associated with rise in women & people of color elected
  • To win – candidates require enthusiastic and broad support, claim it focuses on more issue-oriented campaigns, leads to more civil campaigning.

Why RCV is good for Richmond

  • Always elects majority-supported candidates
  • Gives voters more choice and voice
  • Instant-runoff elections increase voter participation
  • Delivers more representative & equitable outcomes, with more women & candidates of color elected
  • Facilitates coalition-building and discourages negative campaigning

If You Go

Tuesday, April 30, 2024 @ 5:30 PM

Community Services Building
440 Civic Center Plaza
Richmond, CA 94804
Full Agenda – click here
election

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1 comment

MODERATE April 29, 2024 - 5:36 pm

The “staff report” cited is less a factual discussion of the pros and cons of the different systems than it is an obvious attempt to justify RCV. Someone or group is plainly pushing for RCV.

“California voters feel their contributions to federal elections are negligible”? I have two questions to that claim: (1) based on what objective data, exactly? and (2) even if true, what the hell does that have to do with municipal elections?

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