Ranked Choice Voting–a close 16 vote win

ranked choice votingThe close race for Berkeley’s District 8 City Council seat provided an ideal example of the advantage of Ranked Choice Voting over having to stage a separate run-off election to determine a winner.  And it was a dramatic illustration of the importance, not only of each vote, but also of each vote cast for 2nd and 3rd choices.

Lori Droste won the election by a whisper-thin margin of 16 votes out of over 4,000 votes cast.  She was one of four candidates running in the November 4 election for the District 8 seat vacated by Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, so none of the candidates was an incumbent.  All four candidates, George Beier, Mike Alvarez-Cohen and Jacquelyn McCormick, as well as Droste,  were well informed and campaigned energetically.

The final votes were counted through the Ranked Choice Voting process.  We waited and watched the lead shift as provisional and Vote-by-Mail ballots were counted. The voter signature on the outside of the envelopes must be verified before the ballots can be opened and counted.

Eight days after the election we learned Droste had won with 50.19 percent of the vote; the runner-up, George Beier, conceded the race.  There were 4,518 votes cast for first-choices, but nearly 400 voters apparently did not use their right to cast as many as three choices in ranked order.

Ranked Choice Voting (formerly known as Instant Runoff Voting)  removes  the  need  for  expensive run-off elections between the top two vote-getting candidates.  In the past, a run-off election had to take place the month following the November election, at an additional cost to both the City and the candidates.  So the Ranked Choice system in Berkeley saves both time and money.

Berkeley voters adopted “Instant Runoff Voting” in 2004, but it was not used in a Berkeley election until 2010 due to delays in the approval by the California Secretary of State of the software needed to accomplish the task.  In the interim, the process by which votes are cast was renamed Ranked Choice Voting.  It has also been adopted in Alameda County by the cities of Oakland and San Leandro as well as Berkeley.

The election this year in District 8 was the first real test of the process, with the open seat attracting four candidates, none of whom had the advantage of incumbency.  Previous elections did not provide good illustrations because of limited numbers of candidates participating.

Article by Sherry Smith

Note from Nancy Bickel

The SmartVoter.org website has assembled a list of other close contests in the recent election,though they missed this one.  Take a look at http://www.smartvoter.org/2014/11/04/ca/si_close.html

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