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Ranked Choice Voting and Multi-Seat Races – Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

You’ve probably seen some of the growing momentum for adopting ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting is now used in Alaska, Maine, Virginia, and in New York City where Eric Adams won the Democratic nomination via RCV. Several other states and cities are in various stages of adoption. We’ve also seen growing momentum in Alameda with the League of Women Voters joining the movement. And I’ve enjoyed reading the supportive letters in our local papers.

Those letters have made a strong case that ranked choice voting enables voter preferences to be better expressed in single-seat elections, especially when many candidates are running for the seat.

I’d like to describe how ranked choice voting is even more valuable for multi-seat elections, like Alameda’s City Council election, where voters make two choices and the two candidates with the most votes win the seats.

Alameda Post - ranked choice voting
Ranked choice voting would allow Alameda voters to rank candidates for office in order of preference, instead of only indicating their top choice. Photo Pixabay.com

With the current system, it’s possible for a small percentage of voters to have their two votes choose the winners, while the majority of the voters have neither of their two votes assigned to winning candidates. This can enable niche political slates to win without earning a significant proportion of voter support.

In ranked choice voting, each voter ranks the candidates in order of preference instead of selecting two. In the first, and possibly only, round the first choice votes are tabulated. If two candidates each get more than a third of these, they are the winners. If not, there is a series of instant run-offs, based on the voter preferences, until two candidates each get a third of the vote. (With each run-off, votes for the bottom candidate are replaced with that voter’s next choice — and this process is repeated until two candidates win more than a third.)

The result of this process is two winners who will be more representative of the entire voting base. Typically at least two-thirds of the voters in a ranked choice election will have their vote make a difference in the election. This makes the results more representative of the electorate. There are some great resources on the internet to help visualize ranked choice voting.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters has the capability to tally votes using a ranked-choice election system since other cities in the county — Oakland, San Leandro, Berkeley, and Albany — have started using it. All we as voters have to do is choose candidates by order of preference on our ballots.

If you have questions or would like to get involved, reach out to the Alameda League of Women Voters.

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We’re seeing democracy under attack around the world and in the United States. Let’s strengthen democracy here in Alameda with Ranked Choice Voting!

Paul Beusterien is an Alameda resident.

Editorials and Letters to the Editor

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