Schaaf teaches potential voters about ranked-choice voting
on September 30, 2014
Surveying colorful Post-its stuck on a dim restaurant wall while wielding a microphone, Oakland mayoral candidate Libby Schaaf spent an early evening in a downtown Oakland restaurant last week trying to re-explain the ranked-choice system to a gathering of city voters.
“Ranked-choice voting was first used in 2010, when I was elected,” said Schaaf, currently a member of the city council, speaking to the several dozen people who had joined her and her campaign manager for an event she called “Just Ask Libby.” Schaaf held up a the last blue post-it, representative of an eliminated candidate, that her manager Peggy Moore had just taken off of the wall “it may still be confusing sometimes, because it’s a relatively new style of voting,” Schaaf said.
The event was billed as a chance to remind voters how ranked voting works—and to encourage them to vote for Schaaf. In an introductory speech, she talked about her childhood in Oakland, the education she received at Skyline High School, and her love for the city. She said she had stopped practicing law 17 years ago to pursue her passion in volunteer programs throughout Oakland.
She answered questions about job opportunities, education, crime, and concerns about police behavior in Oakland. “Officers need sensitivity training,” she said. Schaaf also said Oakland police officers are underpaid, exhausted and understaffed. “They are the people who bring us safety and they need help,” Schaaf said. “They need a lot of help from the city council and they also need help from the citizens.”
The voter education part of the event was a Q and A, in which Schaaf and Moore demonstrated the workings of the ranked-choice voting system to the potential voters by sticking the bright Post-its on the restaurant wall. Pink, yellow, orange, blue and white Post-its, representative of the various mayoral candidates, were taken off the wall in sequence to show how the ranked-choice voting system is carried out.
Ranked-choice voting is a polling system that allows constituents to elect up to three candidates in order of preference. If no candidate wins a majority, the candidate who received the fewest first-place votes is eliminated, and second and third choices are counted to determine the winner. A system was introduced in Oakland four years ago, for the election won by current mayor Jean Quan, and will be used again in the 2014 Oakland council elections.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Debra McClain, a student at Laney College and a relatively new resident of Oakland who said she has never used the ranked voting system. “After the demonstration tonight I understand that system a lot,” McClain said. “I think that it’s a lot more clear and fairer than other voting systems.”
Not everyone at the venue shared McClain’s view, though.
“Ranked-choice voting is totally ridiculous,” said Jerry Bloodsaw, a city employee who happened to be in the same restaurant where Schaaf held the event. “It manipulates the outcome, and on top of it ranked voting made my vote not count.” Bloodsaw said he is still disappointed by the 2010 election, in which Jean Quan won the mayoral race, despite candidate Don Perata receiving the majority of first-place votes. It was subsequent rounds of voting, adding up the second and third place votes for Quan, that brought the current mayor to victory.
Ranked-choice voting was approved in November 2006, when Oakland voters passed Measure O, mandating the new system. The 2010 ballot was the first time that the East Bay cities of Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro all used the ranked-choice voting system.
As Schaaf and Moore were answering questions from the audience, Schaaf said, “This voting system is what got me in office,” and encouraged the members of the audience to vote and to do so correctly. “Pick the candidate that you love first, and then put down your other choices,” she said. “But please, vote for three candidates.”
Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: firstname.lastname@example.org.