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Your Vote Matters in Berkeley's Election

The following piece was originally published in The Berkeley Daily Planet.

Berkeley is one of four Bay Area cities that will use ranked choice voting to elect its officials this November 8. This means Berkeley voters will have the freedom to rank their favorite candidates in order of preference and elect a new mayor and council in one efficient trip to the polls. 

The way ranked choice voting works is as easy as 1-2-3: Voters rank the candidates using the three columns on the ballot to indicate their first choice candidate, second choice candidate, and third choice candidate. In elections with many choices -- like Berkeley’s election for mayor -- it’s wise to use all three of your rankings. Let me explain.

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Disappointed, But Still Optimistic

In 2010, I sat in Oakland City Hall listening to the debate about whether ranked choice voting (RCV) should be implemented for that election year, despite the fact that in 2006, voters had overwhelmingly supported ranked choice voting to be adopted by a margin of 69% to 31%. Oakland voters knew that consolidating a June primary to a general election was more just and fair because turnout is highest and more diverse in November.

This conversation was only made possible because Oakland is a charter city and voters were able to make this decision. The type of election system a community uses has a direct impact on the type of representation people get. Unfortunately, under current state law, general law cities and many kinds of districts must use a single-round “plurality” voting method, also known as “winner-take-all” or “first-past-the-post.” Whatever it is called, plurality voting can have terrible results because of vote splitting and the spoiler effect. Without a majority requirement, a crowded field of three or more candidates could mean a winner is declared with a third of the vote or less because too many similar candidates can split the vote.

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Ranked Choice Voting in Bay Area Cities: Your Vote Will Matter

This piece was originally published in BeyondChron.

While many voters across the country are strategically pondering how to cast their ballot, voters in four Bay Area cities (San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro) will use ranked choice voting to elect its officials. They’ll have far more freedom to vote for their favorite candidates and elect leaders who will make important policy decisions with longstanding impacts over affordability, development, homelessness, transportation, and education.

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