Tag Archives: instant runoff voting

A bittersweet phone call and why you should talk to everyone you know about this election

13 Oct

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how it was so great to be phone banking again, and since then, I’ve been keeping it up, phoning about once a week for various campaigns. And last night I made the most fulfilling voter outreach call I’ve ever made, though on reflection, it was a bit bittersweet.

I was calling for Libby Schaaf, who’s running for Jean Quan’s City Council seat (I’m working on Libby’s campaign, though the calling was on my own time). It had been a bit of a frustrating evening. Most of the people on my list weren’t home and several of the people I did reach didn’t speak English so I had only had a couple of conversations with voters. I was starting to get a bit frustrated.

Then I dialed an 85 year old women. At first, she had a hard time hearing who I was calling for so I repeated myself slowly and then spelled Libby’s name. “Oh, Libby,” she responded, “I couldn’t find her on my ballot.”

I assured her Libby was on the ballot and that she just was a little ways down in the long list of candidates. She went to find her ballot and when she returned she still couldn’t find Libby. I told her to look below the mayor’s race, and she couldn’t find that either. She was certain that neither of these races were on the ballot and couldn’t understand why.

So I asked her to look at the second or third page. I explained it was a long ballot this year in Oakland. “There are three pages?” she asked, sounding perplexed, “I thought each page was for someone in my family, since we have three voters here.”

I walked her through the ballot and she was able to find and vote for Libby as I spoke with her on the phone. I encouraged her to look at the rest of the races and to vote the entire ballot.

She thanked me immensely and told me that if I hadn’t called, she might not have voted in Libby’s race or any of the races on the second or third page.

When I hung up, I felt incredible. It was so fulfilling to know that not only had I secured another vote for Libby but that I had helped a voter understand the new, long ballot, which is a real downside of ranked choice voting. I started dialing faster and was much more upbeat on the phone after this, and on the next call I got someone to sign up to volunteer for Libby.

But on my walk home from the phone bank, I thought about the call some more and though I still was overjoyed that I helped this woman vote, I started wondering how many other people are confused about the long ballot. Are others just filling out the first page and sending it in, neglecting the down ballot races, which are so incredibly important?

I really hope not, but if so, this makes phone banking, walking, and talking to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers about this election even more important. Whether or not you’re not making a pitch for a specific candidate or measure, please talk to everyone you know about how ranked choice voting works and explain that the ballot will be several pages long.

Voting rates always drop further down the ballot, but let’s try to avoid a precipitous drop by spreading the word about the long ballot.

A presentation on IRV that even the City Council could understand

18 Mar

At Tuesday night’s Council meeting, instant runoff voting (IRV) was on the agenda again. You might be wondering – haven’t they run out of IRV topics to discuss? No, not yet, and since last night’s vote was a tie, we’ll be hearing about it at least once more in the near future.

The agenda item was about a proposal put forward by Councilmembers Ignacio De La Fuente and Rebecca Kaplan to transfer funds from public financing of local campaigns to use them for IRV education. I’ll get to that vote in a minute, but before the long discussion on the merits of that proposal ensued, Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave MacDonald gave the Council a presentation on how IRV works.

All of the councilmembers thought his presentation was the best thing ever, with every member (except Larry Reid, who didn’t speak) going on and on about how this presentation finally made sense and begging MacDonald to show this to everyone and translate it to other languages. They also wanted MacDonald to put the presentation online, and since that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, I thought I’d share it here. It’s a bit long, but if you still have any questions about IRV, this will probably answer it:

After the Council finished praising MacDonald, they jumped into the discussion of De La Fuente & Kaplan’s proposal and then the praise quickly dissipated. You can read what I wrote about it on Twitter, but in the end, after seemingly hours of back and forth, the vote tied. So you can tune in again next time to hear about IRV some more.

What was the Tribune thinking? (A clarification of IRV)

19 Jan

Last week, the Tribune printed a “My Word” opinion piece about instant runoff voting (IRV). I’m all for sharing varied opinions on any issue, including on IRV, but I think it’s important for editors to fact check opinion pieces to make sure the opinions shared aren’t based on assumptions that are patently false.

The piece starts off with this premise:

Undemocratic “instant-runoff” voting is a giant step in the wrong direction. Can you imagine the cries of outrage across the country if millions of Republicans and tea partiers had been forced to rank-vote for the Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election?

With instant-runoff voting or ranked-choice voting, I will be forced to vote for a candidate I do not like. In the coming Oakland mayoral election, I will be forced to rank-vote Jean Quan, whom I consider to be unqualified to become mayor…

The problem is that the author, James K. Sayre, is sorely mistaken on how IRV works. As explained this a couple months ago, via a talk the County Registrar gave, IRV does not force anyone to vote for a particular candidate. Here is what the ballot would roughly look like for the mayoral election in question:

Despite what Sayre thinks, nobody is going to hold a gun to his head and force him to vote for Jean Quan. Let’s say Sayre’s first choice is Paulette Hogan. He’ll mark Hogan under the 1st Choice column. And let’s say his second choice is Don Perata – he’ll mark Perata under the 2nd Choice column. And since we know he would never vote for Jean Quan, he’ll leave the third column blank.

And what if he hates Perata and Quan? Well, he’d just mark Hogan as his first choice and leave the rest blank.

That’s the beauty of IRV – it’s extremely flexible. You can either rank your choices, or if you really can’t bring yourself to vote for any of the other candidates, you can just mark one choice, just like on the traditional ballots.

Next time, the Tribune should check the facts in the opinion pieces they print and reject pieces like this, which only serves to further confuse people about an already controversial and misunderstood issue.

Ignacio De La Fuente still fighting IRV – call the Council NOW!

5 Jan

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: The letter I posted below has been circulating online and has been misconstrued as to be from Libby Schaaf as a candidate and formatted in a way that makes it look like Libby herself was a signer to this letter. Libby is Ignacio’s staffer and the email was sent from her City account. It was clear to me that she was acting on the direction of her boss in sending this email so I didn’t even mention her in the post below. This is Ignacio’s fight, not hers. But since I’ve received a few emails asking me what’s going on, I thought it was worth clarifying.

Yesterday, I wrote a somewhat lukewarm action alert about the IRV vote tonight because I was really hoping that the Council would just do the right thing and vote to implement. But this morning I found out that at least one Councilmember is putting up a fight.

Ignacio De La Fuente’s office is circulating the following sign-on letter to Oakland non-profits:

Ranked Choice Voting – Right Idea, Wrong Time

An Open Letter to the Oakland City Council

We represent a broad coalition of community organizations that provide vital services to citizens throughout Oakland.  We write about the City’s unprecedented fiscal crisis that threatens to reduce vital services – services your citizens need now more than ever.  For this reason, we urge you to reject the $1.5 million contract with Alameda County to implement Ranked Choice Voting (“RCV”) until the City can better afford it.  Many of us still believe RCV is a good idea, but now is the wrong time.

Only weeks ago, the City Council held a special budget session to discuss cutting another $18.9 million shortfall from this year’s budget and $25.4 million from next year’s budget.  The report warned that a cut this size “essentially means that General Purpose-Funded City services and departmental operations not outlined above [i.e., legally mandated,] would cease – an untenable proposition.”

When we supported Measure O in 2006 it was with the promise that it would “save hundreds of thousands of tax dollars each election year,” (Ballot Arguments for Measure O).  The Measure’s Title stated this system would be used “without holding a prior June election.”  But times have changed, now it looks like there won’t be any savings, since Oakland officials are planning to put revenue-generating measures on the June ballot.  And unfortunately, due to the timing of tax collections, these measures can’t wait until a November election.

Now, not only will there be no savings, Alameda County is requiring Oakland to pay up to $1.5 million to implement this new voting system. This cost wasn’t included in the City’s current budget – the same budget that is already running a $18.9 million deficit.  So, the RCV implementation costs will have to come out of vital city services – services that have already been cut to the bone and are at risk of being eliminated entirely. Clearly this means even more cuts to libraries, senior centers, parks, recreation programs, the arts, and vital services for seniors, youth and people in need.

Many of us who have signed below continue to support RCV as a best practice, but we urge you to delay its implementation to a year when we can better afford its costs.  At least let’s wait until RCV is in the City’s budget, so we know what the trade-offs are.

[This paragraph will not be submitted to the newspaper as an op-ed, but will be included in version for Councilmembers]: Finally, should RCV be implemented, we are concerned about how voter education and outreach is conducted.  Oakland’s Charter requires “The City shall conduct a voter education campaign to familiarize voters with ranked choice voting.”  We believe you cannot and should not delegate this responsibility to Alameda County.  While Alameda County has claimed to have worked with “community organizations” on an outreach plan, not one of our organizations has been contacted or consulted.  However, some of us have been contacted by the Department of Justice, which is investigating claims that Alameda County has violated voting rights for non-English speaking voters in past elections.  We urge the Council to take every precaution in voter outreach until this investigation is resolved. We urge the Oakland City Council to adopt an effective, accountable education and outreach plan that is responsive to our communities before adopting RCV.

Respectfully submitted,

Various Names

As I explained yesterday, implementing IRV should not be seen as a choice, regardless of the economic implications (which are grossly overstated in the letter above. It is the law and the City Attorney’s opinion clearly states that there is no wiggle room here – the City Charter mandates the immediate implementation of IRV. If you haven’t already, call your Councilmembers today to urge them to vote yes tonight on IRV implementation. See my previous post for contact info and further information.

The Council should follow the will of the voters & implement IRV

4 Jan

Tomorrow night, the City Council will be voting on the implementation and funding of instant runoff voting (IRV). This really should be a done deal because:

  1. The voters overwhelmingly approved IRV in 2006.
  2. The Secretary of State certified Alameda County’s IRV system late last year.
  3. City Attorney John Russo sent out a very clear opinion on December 16th that says the Council must implement IRV.

Russo’s opinion could not have been much more clear:

The Charter grants the Alameda County Registrar of Voters the exclusive power to determine when ranked choice voting will be implemented in Oakland by way of his determination that he is “able to conduct the election on behalf of the City.” Because the City Charter is the supreme law of the City, it can be amended only by a vote of the electorate approving an amendment to the Charter. No enactment by the City Council, whether by resolution, motion or ordinance can override the Charter’s dictates; nor does any elected official, City officer or employee have the authority to ignore the City Charter’s requirements. A charter city may not act in conflict with its charter and any act that violates the Charter is invalid. Therefore once the Registrar of Voters is able to conduct the election in accordance with the Charter, the Charter requires that the City implement ranked choice voting.

But this is Oakland, and though I’m hopeful the Council will do the right thing, it’s never possible to know until the vote happens, especially with the politics of the mayor race involved. If, somehow, the Council does not approve the implementation of IRV, they’re likely to be sued and it’s possible that results of a June election could be called into question and invalidated. I don’t even want to think about the mess that would entail.

I’ve always been a supporter of IRV – more voters turnout in November and the electorate is much more diverse. It’s also a huge money-saver in the long term. But even if I wasn’t supportive of IRV, I would still urge the Council to vote to implement because it is what the voters decided. There is no wiggle room here – if the Council does not approve IRV, they will be telling Oakland voters that our votes don’t matter.

So please contact the Council to ask them to vote to implement IRV and to full fund the public education needed to implement IRV:

Rebecca Kaplan, At-Large
RKaplan@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7008

Council President Jane Brunner, District 1
JBrunner@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7001

Patricia Kernighan, District 2
PKernighan@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7002

Nancy Nadel, District 3
NNadel@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7003

Jean Quan, District 4
JQuan@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7004

Ignacio De La Fuente, District 5
IDeLaFuente@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7005

Desley Brooks, District 6
DBrooks@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7006

Larry Reid, District 7
LReid@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7007

For more background on IRV, please see the post I wrote about the Registrar’s discussion of IRV at the November Alameda County Democratic Central Committee meeting.

January 4-10 Oakland Political & Community Events

3 Jan

Monday, January 4thPublic Ethics Commission Meeting

Among other items, the Public Ethics Commission will be continuing its discussion of updates to the lobbyist registration ordinance. For background, you should read the account by Max Allstadt of the initial hearing and the more recent post by John Klein about the proposed changes to the ordinance. The meeting will be held at 6:30pm in Hearing Room 1, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. You can read the meeting agenda here.

Monday, January 4th – Assemblymember Nancy Skinner: The Legislation That Doesn’t Make the Headlines – But Impacts Our Lives!

Begin the year with a dynamic conversation with our own Assemblymember Nancy Skinner on the bigger picture of what happens in the state legislature! Hundreds of bills pass the legislature-but the media only covers a few!  Find out about important legislation in the areas of environment, women’s issues, health, education, social services, and more that is under the radar screen of sound bytes! Please plan to arrive at 6pm so you can order your dinner before the program begins. This event takes place from 6:30-8:00pm at Buttercup Grill, 229 Broadway at 3rd Street. The event is sponsored by the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Tuesday, January 5th – Oakland City Council Meeting

The hot item for Tuesday’s meeting will be the votes on the implementation and funding of instant runoff voting, which I’ll be writing about in more detail tomorrow. The Council will also discuss providing a loan to the Fox Theater so it can pay its contractors, registration of foreclosed and vacant residential properties, the citywide parking policy study, and more. See the full meeting agenda and check out my post about how to watch and understand City Council meetings if you need some guidance on how or where to view the meeting. The non-ceremonial parts of the meeting start at 7pm in the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Wednesday, January 6th – Alameda County Democratic Central Committee Meeting

Every month, the Central Committee meets to discuss party business and to make plans for the future of the Democratic Party in Alameda County. This month, George Lakoff will present on the ballot initiative he’s circulating that if passed would make tax and budget votes in the state legislature subject to majority votes, instead of 2/3 votes, which has allowed Republican legislators to hold the budget process hostage. If you’re interested in getting involved with the Democratic Party, this is a great way to do so. The meeting will be held from 7-9pm in the San Leandro Main Library, Dave Karp Room, 300 Estudillo Ave., San Leandro, CA 94577.

Friday, January 8th – Actual Cafe Grand Opening Party

Come be a part of Actual Rising, the grand opening party of Actual Cafe, which is a new cafe that’s very bike-centric. There will be music, beer, wine, and art by Allan Ayres. The party will be held from 6pm – 10pm at Actual Cafe, 6334 San Pablo Avenue (@ Alcatraz Avenue). Find more info about the cafe at their website or read Our Oakland’s review.

Friday, January 8th – Estuary Art Attack

First Fridays are not the only day of the month to check out art galleries. Jingle Town and Alameda artists have joined together to start the Estuary Art Attack, a monthly event held on second Fridays to showcase the area’s galleries, restaurants, and bars. The Art Attack will be held from 6-9 pm throughout Jingle Town and Alameda. Check out their website for more details.

Saturday, January 9th – East Bay Vegan Bakesale

I really wish I wasn’t going to be in LA this weekend so I could go to this because it sounds delicious. Several local bakeries will be donating scrumptious vegan baked goods for this sale, which is a fundraiser for Bad Rap Pit Bull Rescue and the School Garden Program at Laurel Elementary School. The sale will be held from 11am-4pm at Issues, 20 Glen Avenue, near Piedmont Ave. Find more info at the Fat Bottom Bakery Blog.

Yesterday’s budget meeting via Twitter

18 Dec

I had hoped to write a real blog post yesterday or today, but yesterday flew by and today I woke up with a nasty cold and I can’t really focus. So you won’t get a super-excited post from me about City Attorney John Russo’s opinion, issued yesterday, that clearly states that the Council must implement IRV because it’s a voter mandate. (But you should read it – it’s short, easy to read, and important.)

Instead, I’m taking a page from V Smoothe’s book and will share with you Twitter coverage of yesterday’s budget meeting. Though not a lot of new ideas were proposed, I’m glad this meeting was not delayed until January because the Council did approve some staff suggestions and gave staff direction on various other proposals. Hopefully the January budget meeting will be more productive because of this.

If you’d like to see the full budget meeting, it’s only 2 hours and can be viewed online or downloaded.

OaklandBecks: Council budget mtg just started and @Vsmoothe speaking at open forum about KTOP online streaming being down.

OaklandBecks: She’s also saying it’s difficult for people to watch this budget mtg because it’s at 10am and people don’t have Comcast at work.

OaklandBecks: City Administrator Lindheim explains that server has crashed and it will cost $25K to fix. They’re trying to fix it.

OaklandBecks: Lindheim also says it will be improved – currently only allows 250 connections and will allow unlimited connections.

SeanforOakland: @OaklandBecks Someone tell Lindheim to move the server to 365 Main in JLS and this won’t happen.

OaklandBecks: Now @MaxAllstadt is speaking. Suggests taking back $182K from Chamber of Commerce for Chiodo sculpture.

OaklandBecks: Staff – most of our budget “solutions” are one time funds and fund transfers.

OaklandBecks: City Administrator doesn’t recommend spending reductions – so little time left in fiscal year that it wouldn’t make difference.

OaklandBecks: Also, these spending reductions would decimate services, like closing 6 recreation centers or elimination of all IT support.

OaklandBecks: You can see the full staff budget proposal here: http://bit.ly/75k4Ut

MaxAllstadt: Dan Lindheim: Selling assets to cover operating costs makes no sense, but we’re so screwed we might have no choice

dto510: The problem with selling assets isn’t just that prices are low, it’s that sales wouldn’t close for a long time.

OaklandBecks: Lindheim – to close budget gaps w/o one-time solutions, we need further revenue. Asks Council if they’d put rev measures on ballot.

MaxAllstadt: Why isn’t anybody discussing the possibility of selling one of our 3 golf courses?

OaklandBecks: Parks advocate – don’t dismember the already skeletal parks staff we now have. Many parks don’t even receive routine maintenance.

MaxAllstadt: Local 21 rep wants a freeze on hiring to replace early retirees. Demands in house promotion where replacement is essential.

OaklandBecks: Kernighan – we can’t put this off forever with one-time money – we’ll eventually have to make drastic cuts.

OaklandBecks: Kernighan – police/fire budgets growing as general fund shrinks. Eventually have city that’s nothing but police/fire if continues.

OaklandBecks: Kaplan again recommending more billboards on freeways and more medical cannabis facilities as way to create ongoing revenue.

OaklandBecks: Kaplan – permit more medical cannabis dispensaries & permit growers for increased revenue. Permitting growers is way overdue!

OaklandBecks: Kaplan also suggests increased local vehicle registration fee for funds for road repair (which Oakland’s streets desperately need).

Why is Quan speaking? I thought she wanted this meeting to be held off until January: http://wp.me/p55RV-Ap

OaklandBecks: Quan – Mayor’s office, IT department, and police need to come within budget (they’re currently over budget).

OaklandBecks: Quan – should do citizen’s survey on funding & revenue priorities. Sounds like city-funded research for her mayoral campaign.

OaklandBecks: De La Fuente increasingly concerned about structural deficit that we’re not addressing. We haven’t had political will to make cuts.

De La Fuente says we should sell golf courses. We’d get immediate cash and they’d be managed better. That was @MaxAllstadt’s idea!

MaxAllstadt: We should sell a Golf Course: lock in huge ad valorem tax, mandate subdivision + development within 10 years, create more ad valorem tax!

OaklandBecks: De La Fuente – we need to deal with pensions or the city will go bankrupt. We need union/city comm to look at pension problem.

OaklandBecks: Brooks doesn’t think public would respond well to new tax measures since city hasn’t handled Measure Y well.

OaklandBecks: Nadel agrees with Kaplan on permitting & taxing medical cannabis growers but concerned about increased billboards.

Nadel – some neighborhoods get street cleaning weekly & could deal with less. I’ve heard this suggestion from people in her district

OaklandBecks: Why does Brunner never understand staff reports? She’s asking questions about something that was incredibly clear.

OaklandBecks: It seems so simple to understand that while $3.2 mil unspent exists, we can’t touch it because it’s committed already.

OaklandBecks: The CMs keep talking about cutting everything that is not core. But none of them have explained exactly what is core.

OaklandBecks: Many of them seem to agree that the city can’t afford to fund non-profits, outside of what’s required by ballot measures.

OaklandBecks: Brunner says we need June ballot and it should be public-safety measure. People won’t vote for this after Measure Y failure.

OaklandBecks: Also, June ballot initiatives negate potential IRV savings. We wouldn’t have to pay for June election if we don’t have initiatives.

dto510: @OaklandBecks Is that you pointing it out, or CM Brunner?

OaklandBecks: @dto510 That’s me pointing it out. It apparently either hasn’t occurred to her or she just doesn’t care.

OaklandBecks: Kernighan wants to see anticipated revenues & expenditures for next 5 years at next budget mtg to help decide about tax measures.

OaklandBecks: Kernighan – before we go for ballot measure, must cut everything public sees as a waste.

OaklandBecks: Kaplan wants to see Measure Y revision on ballot but prefers Nov ballot. Not saying this, but she’s thinking about IRV.

OaklandBecks: Kaplan – who authorizes police standing around watching peaceful protestors like lockdown of City Hall Tues due to trucker protest?

Vsmoothe: @OaklandBecks Yes, who does authorize that? I had to fight for a long time to be let in for Finance Committee on Tues. Ridiculous!

OaklandBecks: Council approves staff recommendations to close part of budget & tells departments to stay w/in budget or come in Jan to explain.

Don Perata: Message to City Council: Instant Runoff Voting: Protect Our Civil Rights

13 Nov

This guest post was written by Don Perata, who was the President pro Tem of the California State Senate from 2004-08. He chaired the Senate Elections and Redistricting Committee in 2001 charged with protecting the Voting Rights Act when drawing congressional and legislative districts following the 2000 census. There were no allegations of minority voting rights violations and no lawsuits. The plans won bipartisan approval.

In 2006, Oakland voters approved the so-called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) to be used in municipal elections. IRV was developed from a similar voting scheme implemented in San Francisco.

The Oakland ballot ordinance set forth criteria for adopting the IRV by the Oakland City Council, on whose authority it may be implemented.

The key criterion is a “public education and awareness” campaign in anticipation of the potential confusion and difficulties voters may have understanding this unusual ballot voting system. In fact, IRV may only be implemented if determined “practicable”, as by the City Attorney.

Although I initially opposed IRV, my present concern is that if it is to be implemented it needs to be implemented carefully and thoughtfully. It is on this very point that I have urged extreme caution.

Anyone knowledgeable of American history is protective of our voting franchise, especially those who lived through this nation’s civil rights movement. Many citizens died in the fight to obtain the right to vote for women and minorities, especially African Americans.  Making voting easier should be our goal, not creating more complex systems.

The right to vote is the cornerstone of civil liberty.

Therefore, it is only natural for many to be skeptical of any basic changes on how elections are conducted by the government.  IRV, adopted in San Francisco to save money by eliminating a December runoff election – will actually require voters to receive and cast two separate ballots.

One ballot is to cast your vote for state constitutional officers, state propositions, local ballot measures, and legislative, judicial and county and regional offices. This is the familiar ballot where one vote is cast for each candidate or ballot proposition/measure.

The IRV is separate from the state ballot. No one knows how this ballot will look, how to use it or how votes will be tabulated. This is another point of concern. The Alameda County Registrar of Voters (ROV) is responsible for conducting both elections – simultaneously. Yet the registrar’s office has not proved particularly competent in conducting elections with only ONE ballot, much less two. Examples of errors and omissions in past elections are numerous.

To date, the ROV has not produced its plans for the requisite and all-important public awareness and education campaign among Oakland voters; nor the training protocols for poll workers likely held to answer many unprecedented questions; nor the ballot and instructions that must accompany each sample and actual ballot.

Finally, the Oakland City Council must approve the use of IRV and pay all costs associated with it. To date the costs remain unknown. San Francisco said it spent over one million dollars on voter-education related to IRV. Oakland has a $19M budget deficit this year that will require more cuts in police, fire and other basic city services, as well as layoffs of city workers.

I find it hard to fathom how the council could justify cutting these services in favor of paying for an experimental election. But that decision is theirs.

As a candidate for mayor, I want this election to be above reproach in its conduct and outcome. I want the Registrar to accept this onerous responsibility and clearly explain how he intends to dispatch that responsibility in a timely and through manner.

There is also the question of the mechanics of how IRV will work. Can the voting machine and vote tabulating be hacked or tampered with? Will every vote be counted equally? Is it likely or fair for someone who gets the most first place votes to lose? Or, that the voters who voted for a fourth or fifth choice have their votes not counted?

This is a new and almost untested system. Can it be gamed?

These unknown and unanswered questions are precisely why voter awareness and education is so vital. Bi-lingual and older voters in particular will require special attention. (Many of whom won’t vote-by-mail; preferring instead to go to the polling place, cast their ballots and watch them placed in a locked box by the poll worker).

IRV would confuse any voter when two separate sample ballots – one familiar, one unknown – arrive by mail.

Unless the County Registrar prepares and conducts a thorough, timely public awareness and education campaign, the potential for fraud, disillusionment and anger is too great to warrant. The right to vote is simply too important.

(Note from Becks: You can read my take on these issues in my blog post about instant runoff voting and a post about the mayoral campaign.)

What’s going on with instant runoff voting? Registrar Dave MacDonald explains… sort of

5 Nov

Last night, Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave MacDonald came to the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee meeting to discuss instant runoff voting (IRV), which is a hot topic in Oakland right now.

MacDonald started off by making it very clear that he wasn’t taking sides on IRV, but that the Registrar was just implementing what the cities (Oakland and Berkeley, and possibly soon San Leandro) had voted for. He then spent a while explaining how IRV would work, when implemented. Ballots would have all candidates for Oakland offices listed, but they’d be listed three times – under 1st choice, 2nd choice, and 3rd choice heading. It would look something like this:

oakland irv sample ballot

My sample above only features three candidates, but no matter how many candidates there are, you will only get three choices. So the voter would then choose their first, second, and third choices. When the Registrar tallies votes, they would first tally all first choice votes. If someone had received more than 50% of the vote, that person would win. If not, the Registrar would take the last place vote getter out of the running and count the second choice votes of voters who voted for that person, adding those votes in addition to the first choice votes. If someone had then reached more than 50% of the vote, that person would win. This cycle continues until one person reaches 50% of the vote.

Got it? Well, if not, that’s ok because the Registrar and Oakland plan to do significant voter education before IRV is implemented. There’s a plan for an educational mailing to all voters and for education of poll workers so that they can help voters at the polls. According to MacDonald, educational materials will be made available at least in English, Spanish, and Chinese, and potentially in other languages.

This robust educational effort, unfortunately, will not be cheap. IRV supporters claimed in 2006 that implementation would cost $400,000, though I’ve heard that the current estimates are upward of $1 million (I couldn’t find confirmation of this so if anyone knows, please share). This cost is luckily a one-time cost, but it’s a one-time cost that could come in a year when Oakland is looking at slashing its budget by $19 million. Of course, once this cost is incurred, Oakland will save money in the long-term, as we will no longer have to pay for June elections. (June elections will still happen, for statewide primaries, and county measures, but Oakland won’t have to pay.) Though MacDonald mentioned that these savings disappear if the Council places measures on June ballots.

Confused or torn yet? Well, it gets even more convoluted. Right now, the reason this is such a burning topic is because Oakland is waiting to hear from the California Secretary of State on administrative approval of our IRV system. San Francisco’s system was approved last month (they have to seek approval for every election, even though they’ve been using IRV for a while now), and MacDonald said that he had assumed Oakland’s IRV would be approved at the same time as San Francisco’s, especially since we’re proposing to use the same system.

What’s the delay? Well, no one really knows, and worse yet, no one knows when we’ll hear whether it’s approved or not. It might be this month or next, or it might not be until January, which would really be pushing it for being able to do enough voter education and for candidates gearing up to run.

You’ve probably read that Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente and Don Perata sent letters to the Secretary of State, urging her not to approve IRV for the 2010 elections. They claim that Oakland is not ready to do significant educational outreach and are concerned that voting problems would occur.

But others are pushing for IRV to be implemented next year, including Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. She came to the Central Committee meeting last night and voiced strong support for IRV. Kaplan said that IRV has overwhelming support – it was passed by 69% of Oakland voters and 80% of Berkeley voters. She then explained why she supports IRV – the current system puts the local election in June, when there is a much lower turnout. As an example, she shared the voting numbers from the June vs November 2008 elections (which are admittedly a bit skewed because of Obama but the trend holds for other years). In June, 62,000 (38% of voters) voted, while in November 161,000 (79%) voted. For people of color and youth, the difference is even more stark. In June, only 15% of voters aged 40 or younger voted, while in November 74% of them voted. Kaplan explained that IRV would enfranchise a huge portion of voters.

Kaplan later reminded the Committee that the Democratic Party (which is essentially equivalent to the Committee) had endorsed Measure O, the 2006 IRV initiative, along with the MGO Democratic Club and several other local Democratic groups. She asked if the Committee would send a letter to the Secretary of State, asking for the immediate implementation of IRV. A motion was made and unanimously supported so the Committee will soon be sending a letter.

So that’s where things stand now. At this point, we wait and hopefully will hear soon whether IRV will happen next year or not. Either way, IRV will be implemented some day, and if it’s delayed for too much longer, it seems likely that IRV advocates will sue.

November 2-8 Oakland Political & Community Events

1 Nov

Monday, November 2nd – Town Hall with Mayor Dellums and Police Chief Batts

Come hear Mayor Dellums and Chief Batts share their vision of public safety. Topics include:

  • Mayor Dellums — public safety strategy: PIES (Prevention, Intervention, Enforcement, Sustainability)
  • Chief Batts — vision for the Oakland Police Department
  • Crime statistics: crime is down double digits citywide,but more must be done
  • Community policing: how can OPD work with the community to enhance public safety?

The meeting will be held from 6:30-8 pm at Prescott Elementary School, 920 Campbell Street in West Oakland. Additional meetings are set for Monday, November 9, 6:30-8 pm, Cesar Chavez Educational Center, 2825 International Blvd. and Wednesday, November 18, 6:30-8 pm, Tassafaronga Recreation Center, 975 85th Avenue. For details, call the Oaklanders Assistance Center at 444-CITY (2489) or OAC@oaklandnet.com.

Monday, November 2nd – Keeping the Faith for Equality

“At the one year anniversary of the passage of Proposition 8, we stand with our friends in Maine and Washington State as they face ballot measures which would strip same-sex couples of relationship protections. Through interfaith prayer, song, and reflection, we are “Keeping the Faith” for equality for all people.” The event is sponsored by California Faith for Equality, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry, California Council of Churches, Progressive Jewish Alliance, Marriage Equality USA, Courage Campaign, Equality California, and many more. It will be held from 7pm – 8pm at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, 3534 Lakeshore Ave. For more information please contact Reverend Roland Stringfellow.

Monday, November 2nd – Women in Prison: The Real Story

Why do women go to prison and what happens when they get there?  Women generally end up in prison for relatively minor offenses-such as writing bad checks to buy food, or being called an “accomplice” when their boyfriend uses their telephone to make a drug deal.  Most have been physically or mentally abused. Some are in prison for finally standing up to their batterer. Health care is minimal or deferred, often to the point of being too late. Children are the silent victims; separation is devastating for them. You’ll also learn ways you can give support by making a donation or lending a hand. This event takes place from 6-7:30pm at Buttercup Grill, 229 Broadway at 3rd Street. The event is sponsored by the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Tuesday, November 3rd – Oakland City Council Meeting

Among other items, the Council will discuss applying to host the World Cup, park improvement projects, the Oakland Community Land Trust, adding a billboard East of the Bay Bridge toll plaza, tracking citywide performance measures, and amending the CalPERS firefighter contract. See the full meeting agenda and check out my post about how to watch and understand City Council meetings if you need some guidance on how or where to view the meeting. The non-ceremonial parts of the meeting start at 7pm in the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Wednesday, November 4th – BART Police Department Review Committee Meeting

The BART Police Department Review Committee will meet at 9:30 a.m. in the BART Board Room, which is located in the Kaiser Center 20th Street Mall, Third Floor, 344 20th St., Oakland, CA.

Wednesday, November 4th – Bay Area Toll Authority Hearing on Bridge Toll Increases

Via The Capricious Commuter: “Bay Area bridge operators have scheduled three public hearings on a proposed toll increase on seven state bridges. While bridge operators appear determined to raise tolls, they have many details to figure out. Members of the Bay Area Toll Authority are wrestling with how to revamp tolls to do two new things: collecting tolls from car pools during rush hour periods on all seven bridges, and structuring Bay Bridge tolls so drivers pay more during peak periods, and less during in off-peak times. The affected toll bridges are all in the region except the Golden Gate. The proposal increase would be would increase from $4 to $5 per car except on the Bay Bridge, where the proposal gets more complicated because of the plan to use congestion pricing to encourage more people to avoid the bridge during the rush hour.” The only Oakland hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m. at Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter, Lawrence D. Dahms Auditorium, (across from the Lake Merritt BART Station) 101 Eighth St. For more info, see the BATA report. You can also email comments to tolls@mtc.ca.gov until December 21.

Wednesday, November 4th – Alameda County Democratic Central Committee Meeting

Every month, the Central Committee meets to discuss party business and to make plans for the future of the Democratic Party in Alameda County. This month, Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave MacDonald will be presenting on instant runoff voting (IRV), which may be implemented in Oakland as soon as next year. If you’re interested in getting involved with the Democratic Party, this is a great way to do so. The meeting will be held from 7-9pm in the San Leandro Main Library, Dave Karp Room, 300 Estudillo Ave., San Leandro, CA 94577.

Friday, November 6th – Art Murmur

Check out the monthly evening of art gallery shows and entertainment in Uptown. Read my review of the art murmur here. The Art Murmur runs from 6-10pm but individual art gallery times vary. The galleries are mostly located in Uptown, between Broadway and Telegraph, and Grand and 29th. Visit the Murmur’s website for more info.

Saturday, November 7th – Community Workshops (Round 3): Zoning Draft Proposals

Are you an Oakland Resident, Property Owner, Business Owner, or Developer? Learn about and discuss proposed zoning changes for Oakland’s residential neighborhoods and commercial corridors! Planning staff will be hosting its third round of Community Workshops. This workshop will be held from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon at Peralta Elementary School, 460 63rd Street. For more info, read John Gatewood’s guest post on the zoning update.

Saturday, November 7th – Pro Arts 35th Anniversary Party

Pro Arts announces its 35th Anniversary Party and Box Art Exhibition & Benefit Auction. The event celebrates Pro Arts’ rich history serving regional artists and public audiences, and showcases over 80 original artworks created by artists throughout the greater Bay Area. Pro Arts’ 35th Anniversary Party is free to the public, and includes both a live and silent auction supporting Pro Arts’ Youth Fellows Initiative and annual programs. Artists were invited to create new works with found materials that reflect their own artistic practice. The materials for this year’s Box Art are recycled wooden cubes cut from 6” x 6” wooden beams provided by The ReUse People (TRP). This event highlights the diversity and creativity of Bay Area artists – with sculptors, painters, photographers, printmakers and others all adapting their work to a 6” wooden cube. The party takes place from 6:00pm – 9:00pm at Pro Arts and Oakland Art Gallery, 150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. For more info and to RSVP, visit the Facebook page.