April 5, 2010

Council Deadlocks on Ranked Choice Voting Ordinance

The San Leandro City Council failed to pass a ranked choice voting (RCV, also known as instant runoff) ordinance when Councilmember Diana Souza switched her vote at the April 5, 2010, City Council meeting. If the vote stands, San Leandro may end up paying the additional costs of RCV while holding a traditional election and runoff in November 2010. The RCV ordinance is the last step needed to use RCV for the November election. At the January 19, 2010, City Council meeting, Souza had voted with the majority to approve the RCV cost sharing memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Alameda County and the cities of Oakland and Berkeley and to move the election to November. Souza joined Councilmember Bill Stephens and Joyce Starosciak in voting against the ordinance.

After first asking whether there was a presentation on the ranked choice voting ordinance, Souza said, "I'd like to know….I've talked to a lot of people since my vote and I've had more people ask me why did I vote that way rather than thank you for voting that way, so I want to understand the ramifications of what's being presented to us right now."

City Clerk Marian Handa explained that the City Council had already taken action to change the date of the election and signed an MOU for cost sharing with Alameda County and the cities of Oakland and Alameda.

Councilmember Ursula Reed asked why the item had been continued from the March 15 meeting, when she was in Washington, DC. Starosciak explained that she felt that the entire council should have "an opportunity to share the discussion so I made the motion to continue..."

After the vote, Mayor Tony Santos declared that he would "set aside" the vote by exercising a provision of the city charter that permits the Mayor to essentially ignore the vote and to vote again on the same item at the next meeting.

Section 305(h) of the City Charter, which covers the powers and duties of the Mayor, states that the Mayor shall "possess the authority to suspend implementation of any action taken by the Council by filing with the City Clerk, within three days after such Council action, a notice of suspension thereof. Such suspension shall constitute a motion for reconsideration of the action taken, to be voted upon by the Council at its next regular meeting;"

The next regular meeting of the San Leandro City Council is April 19, 2010.

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at April 5, 2010 10:51 PM | TrackBack

San Leandro still comes out ahead by saying NO to IRV even if the city gets stuck with some IRV costs.

The city, by saying no to IRV will not have to endure the lack of confidence in election outcome that has been experienced in other places that tried IRV (and ditched it later).

By saying no to IRV, San Leandro will not have to overhaul its elections administration system nor will the city have to create an intense voter education program to reach all vulnerable segments of the voting population.

Cary, NC, Pierce County Washington and Burlington Vermont ditched IRV after trying it. Aspen Colorado will be reconsidering the method after one IRV election that left many voters baffled on how the votes were counted. Worse, Aspen had to outsource its election to a specialized vendor who programmed the voting machines with the wrong IRV algorithm.

IRV is a very complex voting system and the only one I know of where you can't simply tally the votes up at the polling places on election night. IRV is not additive and you have to haul votes away from where they are cast in order to go through the complex sorting and reallocating process which includes eliminating some votes.

Posted by: Joyce McCloy at April 6, 2010 9:51 AM

Souza made a wise move. IRV eviscerates voting rights by: (1) eliminating the right to participate in the final counting round unless the voter voted for one of the two finalists, (2) eliminating the right to have one's vote treated equally -- in IRV only some voters' 2nd and lower choices are counted when their 1st choice loses -- the voters supporting the least popular candidates (3) eliminating the right for one's vote to have a positive, rather than a negative effect on a candidate -- IRV is nonmonotonic (4) eliminating the right to elect majority winners because so many voters' votes are exhausted prior to the end of the final counting round (5) eviscerating the transparency and verifiability of elections -- IRV is not precinct-summable and is difficult to manually count and audit. (6) eliminating the ability to hold economical elections and post-election manual counts to verify machine counts.

IRV is the only alternative electoral method that fails more of Arrow's Fairness Criteria than plurality voting does. Top-two runoff elections are a far more effective and fair alternative if majority winners are desired because IRV does *not* find majority winners and does *not* eliminate the spoiler problem, but causes many additional problems instead.

Posted by: Kathy Dopp at April 7, 2010 7:09 AM

I'm disappointed to see that Councilmembers Souza, Starociak, and my own district's Councilmember, Stephens, have failed to enact the will of the people who elected them.

Ranked choice voting was approved by the voters long ago and Ms. McCloy's opinion, in the previous comment, doesn't override that fact.

As for the "intense voter education program," as was stated at the City Council meeting where the vote to fund it was taken, Alameda County is doing massive amounts of just that, for this upcoming election. That is one of the reasons it makes sense to enact it now, rather than wait for some vague time in the future when it is "the right time" as Councilmember Starociak said when voting against it.

You are correct, however, that some places have stopped using it, but many more have and are adopting it... I quote Wikipedia:

"Instant runoff voting is used to elect members of the Australian House of Representatives, the President of Ireland, the national parliament of Papua New Guinea, and the Fijian House of Representatives.
IRV is employed by several jurisdictions in the United States, including San Francisco and Oakland in California and Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota.
It is used to elect the leaders of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats in the United Kingdom and the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in a national primary and in the elections of city mayors in a number of countries including the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Many large private associations use IRV, including the Hugo Awards for science fiction and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in selection of best picture starting in 2010.
Forms of instant runoff voting have been adopted by various private and non-profit associations, particularly in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada. In August 2009, the Academy of Motion Pictures announced that its best picture "Oscar" will be elected by instant runoff voting in 2010.[11] The Producers Guild of America in September 2009 announced that it also would use IRV to select its best film award.[36] Other examples in the United States include the 160,000-member American Chemical Society, 150,000-member American Psychological Association, 38,000-member American Psychiatric Association,100,000-member American Association of University Women and 56,000 member American Mensa. The American Political Science Association has long had the "alternative vote" in its constitution for electing its national President-Elect by mail under certain conditions, although there has not been a contested election for APSA President since about 1970.[37].
As of December 2009, at least 55 American college and university student governments have either adopted and actively use IRV, or approve and provide for its use in internal elections."

Posted by: Tim Holmes at April 7, 2010 10:06 AM

I am glad they did not approve RCV. After reading about how it actually works, I want to vote in runoff if necessary. Not have some 3rd choice candidate possibly win.

Posted by: Barry at April 8, 2010 8:39 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?