Alameda County cities try ranked choice voting

October 19, 2010 6:18:50 PM PDT
We are just two weeks away from the Nov. 2 election and early voting is already underway. Ranked choice voting is taking place for the first time in three Alameda County cities, including Oakland. There are some candidates running for mayor in Oakland who are hoping the instant runoff system will be their ticket to City Hall.

The absentee ballots in Alameda County are already pouring in and this year, ranked choice voting means ballots will be counted differently come Election Day. It's a change that could have sweeping repercussions on the most high profile race in the East Bay.

College professor and political analyst Joe Tuman is one of 10 candidates running to be Oakland's next mayor. He's considered the dark horse in the race, but hopes ranked choice is his ticket to City Hall.

"I don't mind that title at all. Ranked choice voting means a dark horse can be a winner in this system," says Tuman.

In ranked choice, voters rank their top three choices. If no candidate gets a majority, the lowest vote-getter is eliminated -- a process that continues until someone wins more than 50 percent of the vote.

But political strategist David Latterman says past elections show it's a system that doesn't necessarily help lesser known candidates.

"Nope, in fact it hurts them because when voters have more to think about and have more to choose, they tend to even more go with the people they've heard of," says Latterman.

Many politicians like ranked choice because it avoids the need for an expensive run-off, but some voters have their complaints.

In Alameda County, San Leandro and Berkeley will also use ranked choice voting for the first time.

"If you want someone for mayor you don't want one, two or three, you want that person for mayor," says William Miller, a San Leandro resident.

There is one thing that's virtually guaranteed with rank choice voting, voters in Oakland will have no idea who their new mayor is on election night.

"It takes probably a couple of weeks to process all of the ballots. So nothing will be final on election night," says Dave Macdonald from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

In fact, it could be days, maybe weeks, before a result is known.

ABC7 News, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the San Jose Mercury News are hosting a debate in the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The debate between Tom Torlakson and Larry Aceves will stream live at ABC7News.com on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. It will then air on ABC 7, Sunday at 11 a.m.


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