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

    Exhausted Ballots in the 2018 San Francisco Mayoral Election

    Exhausted Ballots: Did They affect the Outcome in San Francisco’s Mayoral Election?

    By Steven Hill and Pedro Hernandez

    Executive Summary

    In the 2018 mayoral election in San Francisco, 21,000 ballots (8.6% of all ballots cast) became “exhausted” --is it possible that the number of exhausted ballots impacted the winner in San Francisco's mayoral election? Or, alternatively, if SF voters had more than three rankings (which might have reduced the number of exhausted ballots), might that have affected the outcome? The answer to both questions is: no. By using publicly available ballot-image data to analyze this race, it can be determined that a substantial number of the exhausted ballots came from voters who supported the less progressive-identified candidates in the race. Those voters tended to favor London Breed over Mark Leno by a ratio of 1.36 to 1. Some voters for Jane Kim also saw their ballots exhaust, and those voters tended to strongly favor Mark Leno. Overall, this analysis estimates that, with more rankings for voters leading to fewer exhausted ballots, Leno might have closed the victory margin by an estimated total of 183 votes. This would not have been enough to overcome the 2,600 vote gap between himself and London Breed.

    In addition, if Jane Kim had won 700 more first choice rankings and surpassed Mark Leno in the first round, would that have changed the outcome of the election? Definitely not. In fact, London Breed would have won by an even greater margin, because Kim would have picked up fewer second and third rankings from Leno supporters than Leno picked up from Kim supporters.

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    Ranked Choice Voting's Midterm Report

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