Santa Clara Election, June 5th 2018

Vote YES on RCV this June 5th!

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Background

In November of 2016, a lawsuit was brought against the City of Santa Clara challenging the at-large winner-take-all electoral system used to elect its City Councilmembers. The lawsuit alleges that Santa Clara’s election system violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.

In April, the City Council directed the creation of a Charter Review Committee to review the City’s election method and to make a recommendation for electing members to the City Council. On July 10, 2017, the Charter Review Committee approved its recommended plan to the City Council. On January 30th, the City Council then unanimously voted to proceed with a June 5, 2018 ballot measure.

Problem

The City of Santa Clara is extremely diverse, but many voters have had no representation on city government because of a broken winner-take-all system. Plurality voting, also known as “winner take all,” allows the largest group of voters to elect ALL of the representatives. It also means that similar candidates might “split the vote” so that neither gets elected.

Solution

The solution is a better election process called ranked choice voting, which allow voters to rank their candidates in order of preference and ensures that every vote will be counted. Measure A was created by Santa Clara residents for the City of Santa Clara. It would create two city council districts, each would elect three city council members using ranked choice voting. Also, citywide elected officials, such as the mayor, will also be elected using ranked choice voting.

Join Better Elections For Santa Clara for the June 5 ballot measure campaign.

How it Works

Ranked choice voting allows voters to rank as many candidates as they want in order of choice--first, second, third, and so on. When electing a single position, like mayor, all first choices are counted. If a candidate has a majority, then they win, just like any other election. However if nobody has a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and those voters have their ballot instantly count for their next choice. This process continues until a candidate receives a majority of votes, and is declared the winner.

When multiple people are elected to a position, like three city council members, ranked choice voting is used to ensure that voters in the majority elect a majority of seats, but voters in the minority are still able to elect their fair share. All first choices are counted, and if a candidate has enough votes to be elected to a seat, they are in. The number of votes it takes to get elected to a seat depends on how many seats are being elected. For example, to elect three members of a city council, a candidate must win more than 25% of the vote to be elected.

Once a candidate has more than enough votes to be elected, extra votes for them aren’t wasted, but instantly go to the next choice on a voter’s ballot. If every seat hasn’t been filled, the candidate in last place is eliminated, and those voters have their ballot instantly count for their next choice. This process continues until every seat has been filled. Since so few votes go wasted, voters in the majority are able to ensure their top candidates win a majority of seats, and voters in the minority are able to come together to elect a fair share of candidates as well.


News

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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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Earlier this year a lawsuit was brought against the City of Santa Clara challenging the at-large electoral system used to elect its City Councilmembers. The lawsuit alleges that Santa Clara’s election system violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. In April, the City Council directed the creation of a Charter Review Committee to review the City’s election method and to make a recommendation for electing members to the City Council. 

On January 30, 2018, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution to put the Charter Amendment on the ballot. If the proposed plan is adopted, Santa Clara could be the first California city to use multi-seat RCV. Further, ranked choice voting would also be used for offices elected citywide including Mayor, City Clerk, and Police Chief.