If you had to use ranked choice voting today, would you know what to do? That’s the question Oakland North asked voters in the lobby of the Grand Lake Theater last Sunday, and even after watching a two-hour spy flick, theatergoers explained the process admirably.
That’s good news for the Alameda County Registrar of Voters and a group of local volunteers, who spent this summer and fall giving talks, walking door to door, and attending community meetings to educate voters about ranked choice voting. The system makes its debut in Oakland this November for local races, including elections for mayor, city council, and the board of education.
If all of Oakland understands the system as well as the movie lovers we spoke with this Sunday, they’ll list their top three choices for all city positions, in order of preference. On election night, the Registrar of Voters will report all first choice votes, but it’s possible that no one candidate will win the simple majority needed to secure victory. In that case, the registrar will invoke an “instant runoff” by eliminating the candidates with the least votes. Voters’ second choices will count if their first choice is eliminated. The instant runoff continues until one candidate receives a majority of votes.
“It’s been explained to me,” theatergoer Mark Green said, “but I’ve never seen it in action, so I’m not quite sure how it’s going to go.”