California is Leading Election Reform

Santa Cruz - Berkeley - Davis - Oakland - Santa Clara - San Diego - San Francisco - San Leandro

California has passed electoral innovations involving primaries, voter registration, voting rights, and redistricting and we should continue to lead the nation in change to fairly reflects our state and nation’s vibrant diversity. San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro, are the first cities to adopt ranked choice voting in California. Ranked choice voting has led to greater diversity among elected officials, particularly for women and people of color, promoted fairness, eliminated vote splitting known as the spoiler effect, reduced election cost, and fostered civil elections. 

It's time to take the next step. FairVote California is supporting more cities in California in adopting ranked choice voting as well as organizing state wide reforms. Together, we can serve as a model for the rest of the nation. Join us today.


Ranked Choice Voting - Defined



Ranked choice voting (RCV), also known as instant runoff voting, gives voters the freedom to rank candidates in order of preference. In many California cities, representatives are elected with a plurality, primary, or runoff system. This means a slim majority can elect all of the seats. This isn’t fair representation and leaves many voters without a voice. RCV maximizes every vote because if your favorite candidates can’t win, your vote counts for your next choice.


Fair Representation


In current at-large elections 50.01% of voters can win 100% of the representation. This can mean political and racial minorities and entire neighborhoods could have no representation.

By using ranked choice voting, voters in the majority and the minority can elect their fair share of seats. Everyone has an equal vote, and nearly everyone has their vote count for a winner.




Ranked Choice Voting Reduces Negative Campaigning


This poll by Eagleton of Rutgers university surveyed 4,800 voters. Just 5.2% of respondents in RCV cities said candidates spent "a great deal of time" criticizing opponents, compared to 25.3% of respondents in non-RCV cities. This represents an 80% reduction in negative campaigning.

Ranked Choice Voting in Practice: Candidate Civility in Bay Area Elections, November 2014

Ranked Choice Voting Increases Candidate Diversity

RCV’s positive effects can be related to how often it replaces low, unrepresentative, turnout elections and that it allows for multiple candidates appealing to the same community to run without splitting the vote.

How Ranked Choice Voting Affects Women and People of Color Candidates in California

Photo: 8 Berkeley City Council Candidates, 2016. Courtesy of

Ranked Choice Voting is Easy to Understand


Jerry Brown called ranked choice voting "overly complicated and confusing" when he vetoed the popular SB 1288 that would have allowed general law cities and counties in California to adopt the voting method. In FairVote's 2015 report, each of the 24 ranked choice voting elections held across the country in November 2014, over 99% of voters cast a valid ballot. California's unique top-two primary has led to far more invalid ballots than ranked choice voting.

Voters Understand Ranked Choice Voting - Evidence from Voter Surveys and Official Election Results


Local Governments Using RCV


Support Ranked Choice Voting in California

  • From the blog

    Rural Caucus of the California Democratic Party Adopts Ranked Choice Voting


    At the November 2017 Executive Board meeting of the California Democratic Party (CDP) in Millbrae, California, the Rural Caucus chose nearly unanimously to adopt ranked choice voting (RCV) for the election of all of its officers. The language for this adoption can be found in Standing Rule #1, Articles V and VII  and noted that "Instant Runoff Voting" and RCV are considered the same thing.

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    Making Every Vote Count in Santa Clara


    On January 30th, the Santa Clara City Council unanimously voted to put a measure on the June ballot that will transform how local city council members and city officers are elected. This historic ballot measure will give voters greater choice and a stronger voice. If passed by voters, the measure will amend the City’s charter to create two districts and elect 3 city council members to each using ranked choice voting (RCV). Santa Clara could be the first city in the country since the 1950s to use this form of multi-seat RCV. The mayor, clerk, and police chief will also be elected citywide by RCV.

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