An Attack on Ranked Choice Voting is an Attack on Democracy

In 2006, 69% of Oakland voters adopted Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV).  We first got to see RCV in action during the 2010 election.  It was instrumental in the outcome of the mayoral election by allowing residents to vote their conscious and to disrupt the coronation of the Big Money candidate for the first time in the city’s history.  We also saw a huge surge in turnout of low-income voters and voters of color who make up the majority of Oakland residents.

But now, Ranked-Choice Voting is under attack. And that is an attack on democracy and on the participation of voters of color.

Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, a longtime close friend and ally of failed mayoral candidate, Don Perata’s, will ask the city council to put the proposed repeal of ranked choice voting on the November ballot.  Even though most believe he doesn’t have the votes from his fellow council members to put the repeal on the ballot, we are outraged at this attack on democracy.

We are both born and bred Oakland natives working to empower and mobilize residents throughout our city to stand up and take charge of the issues impacting our lives. Ranked Choice Voting is one piece of that. Stand up for it now. 

RCV eliminates the need for primary elections in local races by allowing all candidates to participate in a single, decisive election. Not only does this save our city ten of thousands of dollars, but the limits the impact of Big Money in our democracy. RCV also increases voter turnout by holding races during November general election when more voters-  especially low-income voters and voters of color-  turn out to cast their ballots.

Rank Choice also allows more Oakland residents more choice about who will represent them. Prior to the adoption of RCV, local candidates could win in a June primary election with less 33% of the electorate. By contrast, in the mayor's contest in 2010, there were 43% more votes cast and 28% more votes for the winner compared to 2006. There were 25% more votes for the winner compared to 2002.

RCV makes it necessary for every candidate to do broad outreach during their campaign, especially among voters of color and in low-income communities which are too often ignored by money-driven candidates.

Our elected officials should be doing everything in their power to increase and protect democracy. And RCV is what true democracy looks like for Oakland.  In a city as diverse as ours, our leaders should embrace every program that boosts civic engagement and relationship building with voters, especially within our most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Yet, De La Fuente and others who oppose RCV say that “is too confusing.” However, in 2010 Oaklanders proved that we can use ranked-choice voting effectively. In the 2010 mayoral contest, 99.7% of voters cast a valid vote and 88% fully participated. Using Oakland's old system with a June primary, only about 50% of voters would have fully participated. Corey Cook has been studying RCV since 2003 and cites overwhelming evidence that it is not confusing for voters.

So if opposition isn’t about voters confusion, what’s really at root of this attack?

Could it be Big Money?  For too long, Big Money (ie developers and corporations) and their interests have determined the outcome of local elections. Big Money has been able to influence campaign agendas and throw support towards candidates who will put their business’s profits over the needs of real people. However, RCV blunts the impact of Big Money by creating opportunities for more independent and progressive candidates to win through strategic campaigning rather than just electoral money games.

It could also be simple politics. More than 50% of the Oakland City Council has served for more than 12 years. Shifting the way our local elections work means they have to broaden and smarten their campaigns in order to grow their base of voter support to win future elections. We believe that all of our elected officials should continually be in conversation and relationship-building with all of the Oakland residents in their districts. RCV demands that even our most tenured officials need to work with all of Oakland’s neighborhoods in order to stay in office.

Join us in standing for democracy. Tell Oakland City Council to vote no on the proposed repeal.