Thursday, October 17, 2019

Governor Newsom vetoes RCV bill

In this Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, file photo, Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference.
Photo: Rich Pedroncelli

Good for Governor Newsom for vetoing the Ranked Choice Voting bill.

In the SF Chronicle:

More than 17 years after San Francisco approved ranked-choice voting over the objections of then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom, California’s first-year governor got a chance for some payback, vetoing a bill that would have allowed more cities, counties and school districts across the state to switch to the voting system.

The Chronicle story has an inadequate account of how RCV works:

Ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff, is designed to eliminate low-turnout December elections that occur when no candidate gets a majority of votes in the November general election. Instead, voters in November list multiple candidates on their ballots, ranking them in order of preference. If no one receives a majority in the first count, the lowest-ranking candidate is dropped from the ballot, with their votes automatically going to that voter’s second choice. That continues until someone has 50% plus one of the vote.

But, importantly, the winning candidate only gets a majority of the remaining votes after all other votes are eliminated, which means under RCV she/he is elected by a small minority. In a traditional run-off between the two candidates with the most votes, the winner is elected by a majority of voters.

RCV is also supposed to provide voters with more choice, make campaigns less negative, and save money on run-off elections. Only the last argument is true, which is the only good thing about RCV.

Mayor Breed was elected District 5 Supervisor under the RCV system after the candidates of course waged an issue-free campaign that the system encourages.

That's why we ended up with Supervisor Breed, who didn't know much of anything and was quickly co-opted by City Hall on important issues. A run-off election between Breed and Christina Olague could have revealed that reality.


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