ranked choice voting
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The Local Plan to Create Ranked-Choice Voting

Supporters want Santa Cruz to be among the few California cities with the balloting system

A man casts his vote during the fall election of 2016 at the County Government building. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER

As idealists gaze into the clouds, yearning for a day when the electoral college ceases to exist, some Californians—including ones here in Santa Cruz—are dreaming up a different kind of election reform.

A local group called Yes on Ranked Choice is not just imagining a different kind of election, but also working to create it from the ground up. Ranked choice is a system that allows voters to bubble-in selections for their first, second and third choices on their ballots. The local group is holding a meeting on March 19 at the Garfield Park Community Church to discuss creating such a balloting system in the city of Santa Cruz.  

One advantage to this instant-runoff system, supporters suggest, is that voters may be more likely to pick their favorite candidate, instead of reluctantly supporting a politician who’s more likely to win. Of course, in Santa Cruz—at least for the City Council—voters already get to vote for three or four people each cycle.

Ranked choice is already in place in the Bay Area cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro.

The idea seems intuitive enough—it’s how sports writers vote for most valuable players—but it still has high-profile opposition. Gov. Jerry Brown has criticized it for making voting more complicated. He vetoed a bill to extend ranked-choice voting to the state’s general law cities, if they chose to implement it, this past fall.

Because Santa Cruz is a charter city, it’s still eligible.


The ranked-choice meeting will be from 2-3:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 19 at the Garfield Park Community Church at 111 Errett Circle.

News Editor at |

Jacob, the news editor at Good Times, won the 2014 award for best local government coverage from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. A longtime basketball and football fanatic, Jacob has evolved into a shameless fair weather fan and band wagoner for hot West Coast sports teams. He also enjoys arguing with others about where to find the best burrito in town.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Not this again

    March 19, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    There’s a lot of money and marketing behind IRV (incorrectly called “ranked-choice voting”) but unfortunately, the enthusiasm is not deserved. IRV is a very flawed, obsolete voting system, invented 150 years ago, and should not be used in the modern world.

    Due to the way it eliminates candidates, it exhibits very bizarre behavior. If you decrease your support for a candidate, it can cause them to win, while increasing your support for a candidate can cause them to lose.

    Despite the propaganda you may have heard, It does not eliminate the spoiler effect: Under IRV, voting honestly can cause your least-favorite candidate to win, while voting dishonestly would have caused your second-favorite to win.

    Real-world experience has shown that IRV just doesn’t work. IRV failed voters in the 2009 Burlington VT election, electing a candidate who was neither the most-approved nor the most-preferred, and was repealed soon after. Australia has used IRV in its House for almost a century, and the House is still two-party dominated, with only 3% representation by other parties. (The Australian Senate, for comparison, uses PR and 26% is third parties, a much better representation of the population.)

    Please adopt a more scientifically-validated approach, like Score-Runoff Voting (SRV).

    In this system, you give every candidate a numerical score, varying from “strong disapprove” to “strong approve”. The two most-approved candidates proceed to an instant run-off, in which the candidate who was preferred by more voters wins.

    The runoff round strongly encourages you to give different scores to different candidates, which makes this system a hybrid of ranking and rating systems. It’s the best of both worlds, selecting a candidate who is both most-approved and most-preferred. Election simulations have shown that even in unrealistic worst-case scenarios, SRV outperforms IRV’s best-case scenario.

  2. Catharine

    March 16, 2017 at 5:55 am

    Mr. Pierce didn’t include the fact that the election last November produced Ranked Choice Voting (aka Instant Runoff Voting) for the whole state of Maine.
    It sounds like nonsense to me, the reason Gov. Brown gave for not liking Ranked Choice Voting, being that it is too complicated. How complicated is ranking your vote? First, second, third. And if you only like two of the candidates, you can just rank first and second choice. No big deal. How dumbed down does he think we are?
    With Ranked Choice, you can vote for someone you genuinely want, rather than be called a spoiler if you don’t vote for the lesser of the two evils (that the status quo wants), therefore digging our way more and more into a corner every election.

  3. Reggie

    March 15, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    Ranked Choice Voting isn’t merely “suggested” to “maybe”, “more likely”, pick your favorite candidate for a position. It is doing exactly that. Your vote transfers if your favorite candidate is defeated in a run-off, or if your favorite candidate wins the majority threshold (in the case of multi-seat races). This is not merely theoretical, it’s proven, and I think this article is being dangerously disingenuous about that fact.

    This language implies that RCV is somehow new, untested, or doesn’t have the robust mathematical proofs that other systems might have. This is simply not the case. RCV is a proven voting system with a lot of research to back up its claims. It’s also been used to elect legislators for over 100 years in Australia.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_system_of_Australia#Preferential_voting

    FairVote.org is a national organization, working on implementing RCV all over the country. They are also working directly with the local Yes on Ranked Choice group. This org has an abundance of research and studies on RCV, among other aspects of electoral reform, which demonstrate its success on a variety of metrics.

    http://www.fairvote.org/data_on_rcv#research_rcvamericanexperience

    On the topic of Gov Jerry Brown’s veto, this talking point about RCV making voting more complicated is exaggerated and disingenuous. The amount of spoiled ballots produced by RCV, while higher than those produced by plurality voting, is a far cry from the number of voices that are essentially ignored because of vote splitting, which should be considered a form of “spoiled ballot”.

    Imagine you have a race between 4 candidates for a seat:

    Candidate A: 10%
    Candidate B: 20%
    Candidate C: 30%
    Candidate D: 40%

    Candidate D wins this race under a plurality system, but this win doesn’t represent the majority of voters. If you don’t strategically vote, your vote is effectively thrown away and you have no way of voicing your opinion. This isn’t majority rule, this is plurality rule, and it makes things like aggressive campaign ads, and lowest common denominator talking points more powerful.

    One of the biggest benefits of RCV is its effect on political campaigns and campaign rhetoric. Issues become first class citizens and the meta-horse race talk takes a backseat.

    Anyways, I just wanted to educate the readers of this article on the topic a bit more, as it seems as though the author may have been overly dismissive of the voting system based on allegiance to the politics of Jerry Brown.

  4. Zach

    March 12, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    National Popular Vote, AKA let the people within 100 miles of a beach pick the president and ignore all those “flyover” states. What have they ever done for us?

  5. otto

    March 9, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    California has enacted the National Popular Vote bill.

    It is 61% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency in 2020 to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    All voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.
    Candidates, as in other elections, would allocate their time, money, polling, organizing, and ad buys roughly in proportion to the population

    Every vote, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election.
    No more distorting, crude, and divisive and red and blue state maps of predictable outcomes.
    No more handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ predictable states, like California, that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    In 2017, the bill has passed the New Mexico Senate.
    The bill was approved in 2016 by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).
    The bill has passed 35 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 261 electoral votes.
    The bill has been enacted by 11 small, medium, and large jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the way to guaranteeing the presidency to the candidate with the most popular votes in the country

    NationalPopularVote

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