East Bay Ranked Choice Voting Results: A First Look

Posted by Pedro Hernandez, Jr. on November 08, 2018

Press Release: East Bay Ranked Choice Voting Results: A First Look

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

November 8, 2018

Contact: Pedro Hernandez at pedro@fairvote.org

East Bay Ranked Choice Voting Results: A First Look
Trends Suggest Voters Using Ranked Choice Voting Well
Three in Four Oakland District 4 Voters Ranked More than One Candidate

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Early ranked choice voting (RCV) election results in the Bay Area suggest that voters understand their ranked choice voting ballots well. After analyzing the first release of the 120,544 ranked choice ballots received by the Registrar of Voters on Nov. 6, FairVote California finds that East Bay voters continue to make effective use of ranked choice voting. Many ballots await to be counted, but here is a preliminary assessment:

  • Greater Voter Participation. In Oakland elections, the undervote rate for mayor was just 2.2 percent and was 10 percent in District 2. This is part of a pattern in which voters are more likely to vote in city elections with RCV than they are in pre-RCV two-round elections.
    • Under Oakland’s previous runoff system, many less voters participated in decisive June elections. From 1992-2010, voter turnout in primary elections was consistently lower than turnout in general elections. The average turnout in June was 39 percent less than the turnout in November.
  • High Use of Rankings. Voters in RCV city council elections used their rankings effectively. In Berkeley District 7, 78.8 percent of voters indicated 2-3 different candidates. Oakland District 4 saw a similar rate of 77.3 percent, and in San Leandro District 1 election, 79.3 percent of voters made great use of their ranked ballots.

“Though these numbers are preliminary, they do underscore findings from our recent report that Bay Area voters have effectively used ranked choice voting—and it keeps getting even better,” said FairVote California Deputy Director Pedro Hernandez. “Voters were very engaged in the election for their local representatives.”

This initial release of data is based on ballots processed by the Registrar of Voters on election night. Alameda Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis anticipates an additional 300,000 ballots to be received by the County by the end of the week. The recent count likely reflects less than half of the final vote.

Soon after 2 a.m. Wednesday, the Department of Elections released its first preliminary report of ranked choice voting results. Today, incumbent Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf appears to be the winner in a single-round election with 56.04 percent of votes in the first round. Incumbent Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks trails challenger Loren Taylor by 23 percentage points in the final RCV count, and Nikki Fortunato Bas appears to have unseated incumbent Abel Guillen in a single-round election with 51.1 percent of first choice support. In District 4 in Oakland, Sheng Thao is ahead of Pamela Harris by 634 votes.

In San Leandro, incumbent Mayor Pauline Cutter also appears to have won in a single-round election. Cutter leads over her challengers with 53.9 percent of first-choice support. Councilmember Deborah Cox appears to handily win her reelection with 65.8 percent of first choice support.

In Berkeley, Rashi Kesarwani current leads over Igor Tregub by 353 votes in the open District 1 seat left open open by outgoing Councilmember Linda Maio. Incumbent District 4 Councilmember Kate Harrison appears to have won re-election with 52.6 percent of first choice support. In Berkeley’s District 7—the nation’s first student-district, UC Berkeley graduate Rigel Robinson, who is 22 years old, leads the election with 55.5 percent of first-choice support.

Final vote totals will be affected by the anticipated influx of vote-by-mail ballots the Registrar of Voters will process this week.

“Of the votes counted so far, at least 72 percent of voters ranked at least two candidates in the multi-candidate RCV elections, showing that East Bay RCV voters are engaging with the ranked choice voting system,” Hernandez said. “RCV empowers these voters because they are able to truly express their preferences without fear of wasting their votes.”

Notably, the speed of releasing results depends upon how many ballots the Registrar of Voters has to process, not ranked choice voting - helping to explain how several congressional elections in California won’t be decided until later in November. Once the Registrar of Voters has processed a batch of ballots, it can run the RCV tabulation on that batch and release those results in about 30 minutes, according to County Registrar Tim Dupuis. Next year, with new voting machines in place, even that half-hour interval to run the RCV tabulation will not be necessary—it will essentially be instantaneous.

FairVote California and FairVote will be analyzing results tonight and in the days ahead. For comment, please contact FairVote California Deputy Director Pedro Hernandez at pedro@fairvote.org.

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Background

Under ranked choice voting, a candidate is elected as soon as they secure more than half the vote. You get to rank up to three candidates in order of choice: first, second, and third.  If a candidate gets over half of all the first choices, that candidate wins. If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is defeated and those who ranked that candidate as their “First Choice” now have their ballots go to their next choice. This process continues until a candidate wins with more than half the votes.

Currently, the Alameda County registrar stops the RCV tabulation once a winner is declared. Unlike San Francisco, where the tally runs until two candidate remain, which shows how the winner fared against the top opponent. Current advocacy efforts are underway to ensure voters in Alameda County are provided the same transparency as San Francisco voters. FairVote is able to run the tallies down to the final two candidates in all races and share this with the public.

Since 2010, Berkeley voters have used RCV to elect the mayor, members of the city council, and the city auditor. Similarly, Oakland elects its mayor, city council members, city attorney, city auditor, and school directors using RCV. San Leandro uses RCV to elect its mayor and city council members. More than a dozen cities and the entire state of Maine have adopted ranked choice voting. Using RCV enables voters to rank candidates on the ballot rather than voting for a single candidate, which can limit voter participation and contribute to an uneven playing field for diverse and underrepresented voices in cities. More information about ranked choice voting can be found here.

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