Rank Choice Voting in Action

This November’s election is shining a light on rank choice voting.  This vote counting method decided Oakland’s new mayor and will decide the San Francisco Supervisors for Districts 2 and 6. 

Voters approved rank choice voting in 2002.   Every voter gets three choices for their preferred candidates, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  Write-ins are allowed.  When a candidate fails to receive more than 50% of all first choice votes, the 2nd and 3rd choice votes are distributed until a candidate crosses the 50% line.  The system alleviates the need for (poorly attended) run-off elections when one candidate fails to receive more than 50% of a voter’s first choice votes.  Rank choice may be used for races for San Francisco Mayor, Sheriff, District Attorney, City Attorney, Treasurer, Assessor-Recorder, Public Defender, and Members of the Board of Supervisors (and Oakland’s Mayor, too).

The League enthusiastically endorses rank choice voting.  RCV greatly expands voter choice by providing voters with the opportunity to select three candidates and rank them in order of preference.  This triples the number of choices which voters currently have when selecting a president, governor or member of congress, when voters have only one choice.”

Not everyone is happy with rank choice voting.  Candidates who receive the majority, but less than 50%, of first choice votes tendto be the crankiest.  In particular, candidates who believe they can get out a vote for a special election are grousing.  These candidates tend to be established politicos, or people with deep pockets for get-out-the-vote initiatives. 

It seems to me that any system that gives voice to the greatest number of voters  and their express choices is a good thing (all other fairness factors held equal).  LLII.

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