This website is to promote the implementation of preference voting (also known as "preferential voting" or "ranked choice voting" (RCV), or as "instant runoff voting" (IRV) when used to elect a single candidate to office) in the city of Oakland, California.
The Oakland City Charter currently authorizes the use of preference voting in special elections to fill vacancies on the City Council, but the two special elections held since that charter provision went into effect have not used IRV.
The first such election, held in April 2001, was to fill the vacancy in Council District 6 created by Nate Miley's election to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. In it, Moses Mayne was elected with a plurality of 33.23% of the vote, far less than a majority, edging out Carol Ward Allen (31.07%) and also defeating Toni Cook (22.08%), Nancy Sidebotham (12.70%) and Enrique Palacios (0.91% as a write-in). When Mayne faced re-election a year later, he received roughly the same percentage of the vote, 34.28%, and Nancy Sidebotham also received roughly the same percentage as in the special election (12.32%), but the third candidate, Desley Brooks won easily with 53.40% of the vote.
That's what can happen when several strong candidates face off in a "First Past the Post" election that can be won with less than a majority: a candidate who wouldn't win a majority against a single strong opponent can be elected.
Members of the community, including representatives of the League of Women Voters, Californians for Electoral Reform, and the Oakland Green Party asked the City to use preference voting for the special election (to fill the vacancy in Council District 2 created by Danny Wan's resignation) that has since then concluded on May 17, 2005. We were unsuccessful in that, but we did get the Council to agree to look in June at the feasibility of using preference voting in future special elections.
In the District 2 special election, Pat Kernighan was elected with a plurality of 28.77% of the vote, followed by David Kakishiba (21.15%), Shirley Gee (16.53%), Aimee Allison (14.22%) and five other candidates with less than ten percent each (but a total of 19.16%). Because neither preference voting nor a separate runoff was used in this election, we don't know whether a majority of District 2 voters would have supported Kernighan. Next year, we may find out, but that will be a different election, with a different, probably smaller field of candidates, and with the incumbent having a year in office to establish a record to run on.
A report on the feasibility of using preference voting in Oakland special elections is was presented to the June 23, 2005, meeting of the City Council's Rules Committee. No vote was taken at the meeting, with favorable, unfavorable and neutral sentiments toward the use of preference voting all expressed by members of the committee. The one request for further action was for an analysis of the policy advantages and disadvantages of using preference voting, to be received sometime after the Council returns from their summer vacation in early September.
We are now working to develop the political support so that once they receives this additional report, the Council will move forward and take the concrete steps necessary for the City to be ready to successfully use preference voting in any future special elections. If you would like to help plan this campaign, please use the form below to join our email discussion list.
One thing we have done to build support for preference voting in Oakland was to ask the candidates in the District 2 special election to sign a pledge to support preference voting and to answer a questionnaire about how they would do so. Eight of the nine candidates signed the pledge.
Several organizations in which our supporters are active have taken official positions in support of Oakland's implementing IRV for special elections. We encourage your organization to do likewise.
We have also been working with IRV supporters (and others primarily concerned about the transparency of the electronic voting machines the county uses) from other parts of Alameda County to influence the choice of a new Registrar of Voters and the upgrading and/or replacement of the county's voting equipment. Key roles in this are being played by IRV supporters from Berkeley and San Leandro, both of which passed charter amendments authorizing the use of IRV in their regular municipal elections, not just in special elections.
On June 15, 2005, the Registrar of Voters and City Clerks held a public meeting on IRV implementation for IRV activists and other interested parties. This meeting resulted in the formation of three committees, a "roadmap committee" to specify the rules to govern IRV elections in Alameda County, a "legal committee" to ask and partly answer the legal questions on how the "roadmap" could be enacted, and a "political/implementation committee" to see that the necessary legal and other steps are taken. All of these committees included members from our informal group of Oakland Preference Voting supporters. The overall group met again on August 24, 2005, where it reviewed the draft "roadmap" and discussed next steps to implement IRV.
In the not too distant future, this website will include information on more things you can do to support preference voting in Oakland (if your level of support and available time don't allow you to join our planning group).
This page was last updated on August 25, 2005.