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Now, to find out who’s Oakland’s mayor … we wait

on November 3, 2010

Though mayoral candidate Don Perata leads at the ballot box—11 points above his nearest competitor, with all Oakland precincts reporting—the city’s new ranked-choice voting system means it could be more than a week before a new mayor is formally selected.

Under the rules of ranked-choice voting, a system approved by nearly more than two-thirds of Oakland voters in 2006, voters rank their top three choices for mayor on the ballot. First choice votes are tallied, and if no candidate receives a majority—more than 50 percent of the vote—then the last-place candidate is eliminated. Then those who voted for that eliminated candidate have their second-choice votes counted.  The process continues until one candidate gains a majority and is declared the official winner.

The Alameda Registrar of Voters only released first-choice results on Election Day, showing Perata with a sizable lead at 35.19 percent of first-place votes, but short of the majority needed to win outright. The ranked-choice algorithm will be run on Friday at 4:00 pm—a computer at the Registrar’s office will run the calculation–and a winner will be announced after final results are calculated.

“We will be done counting ballots early next week,” said Registrar of Voters spokesperson Guy Ashley, when asked how long those calculations might take.

“We have 30 days from the election day to finalize and certify our results.”

City councilmember Jean Quan, who received 24.19 percent of first-choice votes on Tuesday, could still clinch victory if she were to receive enough second and third choice votes.

Quan remained confident of her chances on the night of the election. “I think if it’s close between me and Mr. Perata, the ranked-choice voting is going to help me,” Quan said late Tuesday night.

Tuesday marked the end of a frantic election season in Oakland, with 10 candidates in the running for mayor. City councilmember Rebecca Kaplan fell behind Perata and Quan last night, with 20.91 percent of first-choice votes; while political analyst Joe Tuman placed fourth with 11.88 percent of first-choice votes. The remaining six candidates, plus write-ins combined to garner 7.83 percent of first-choice votes, which, by the rules of ranked-choice voting, will be initial votes redistributed to other candidates.

Though the ranked-choice calculations are complex, Registrar of Voters spokesperson Guy Ashley said that he thought voters were mostly comfortable with the new system. “I went to polling places yesterday and people seemed to get it pretty easily,” he said. “It didn’t seem to be a burden on the voter.”

Ashley attributed voters’ understanding of ranked-choice voting partially to the Registrar of Voters’ educational efforts, including over 150 local presentations, mailings sent to registered voters, and information made publicly available. “We did a heck of a lot of outreach,” Ashley said.


  1. Jason Mundstuk on November 5, 2010 at 11:12 am

    They’re counting on Fri at 4 pm, aren’t they? Why the negative tone about RCV in this article?

  2. […] Results released on election night, Tuesday November 2, included only voters’ first-choice candidates, showing former state senator Don Perata with 35.13 percent of the vote, a double-digit lead over his closest competitor, city councilmember Jean Quan. Ranked-choice calculations were run on Friday, November 5, using an algorithm that procedurally eliminated the candidates who received the fewest first-choice votes, counting their second and third choices instead.  After the computation was run, Quan surged into a slight lead over Perata, with 51.09 percent of votes to his 48.91 percent. At that point, 15,000 mail-in ballots from throughout the county remained uncounted, and it was unclear how many of those voters had cast votes in the Oakland mayoral race. […]

  3. […] voters have been anticipating a complete tally for over a week.  Results released on election night, Tuesday November 2, included only voters’ first-choice candidates.  In this preliminary count, Perata was shown […]

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