Counting one, two, three

It’s the same ol’ backward story I hear over and over again about ranked-choice voting being complicated.  Wrong.  It’s as simple as one, two, three.

The conversation I have with people goes something like this:  “Ranked-choice voting is hard for voters (but not me) to understand—to wrap their head around.”  I respond by saying, “There’s nothing hard about ranking your first choice, your second choice, and your third choice.  The computer does the rest.”  Next comes, “Yeah, I know.  But then you get something like what happened in Oakland where Don Perata didn’t win because most of the voters there chose him as their third or later choice.”  To which I say, “Then democracy won because the result reflected the will of the majority.”  Dead silence.

With the possibility of a third seat opening up on the city council this election (should Rob Bonta win his bid for the State Assembly), it would have been nice to have the opportunity to use ranked-choice voting.  Instead, we’re left playing silly games such as, “I know my favorite candidate is likely to win, so I might as well vote for my second and third choice in case the third seat opens.”

To boot, in this election a few organizations have endorsed three city council candidates even though voters can cast only two votes.  Go figure.  They, along with their candidates of choice, should also be championing changing Alameda’s electoral system from our current plurality system, where top vote getters can win without a majority mandate, to ranked-choice voting–particularly in our mayoral races.

Let’s face it.  The only people who keep trying to convince everyone that ranked-choice voting is complicated are the people who usually support the entrenched, highly funded candidates.  Period.  They worry, based on evidence, that they will lose control of election outcomes.  It’s no wonder they keep trying to bad-mouth an easy, proven voting system.

These same people often tell us that voting for a candidate who best reflects our values and positions would be a “wasted” vote if our candidate doesn’t have a chance of winning.  But they loose control of that message with ranked-choice voting because every vote counts.

Under ranked-choice voting (also known as instant-runoff voting), when no candidate garners at least 50 percent of the votes, the computer begins to transfer the lowest vote getters’ second choice vote up the line, and so on, until one of the contenders reaches a majority mandate.  When there is more than one at-large seat to fill, as in Alameda’s city council elections, the threshold for winning is adjusted—say 33 percent.  Easy!

Don’t buy the hype from those afraid of losing their power.  We have evolved.  We know better, so we should do better.  We can count, and so would every vote count too.  It’s just a matter of one, two, three.

Originally published in Alameda Sun.

Related story:  In a Democracy, the Majority Should Rule

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