Oakland elected its first mayor elected using “Ranked Choice Voting”, Jean Quan. She became the nation’s first Asian-American mayor of a large city. With ten candidates vying for Mayor, voters were able to express second or third choice should their preferred candidate trail after the counting first place ballots.
Alameda County ran a strong educational campaign to help voters understand they could indicate more than one choice. Voters get the idea, ranked their choices and the election went smoothly. Oakland adopted the new voting method, used widely in countries like Australia and Great Britain and in several US cities. Portland, Maine and St. Paul, Minnesota and Memphis, Tennessee are the latest cities to adopt it.
Oakland’s goal was to ensure a majority winner without the need or expense a second run-off election. Candidates could run without fear of being a spoiler. No candidate could win just by splitting the vote in a crowded field.
This is exactly what happened in Oakland’s mayor’s race. Quan’s chief opponent, Don Perolta, led initially with 34% of the first place votes. But an underwhelming 34% didn’t make him the winner as it would if voters didn’t have the ranked choice option. Quan picked up the most second place votes. She emerged the overall preference of the most voters who had supporter lesser candidates who ran on many of the same issues as Quan. It was the second place votes of the other leading candidate, popular political newcomer Rebecca Kaplan, which ultimately transferred overwhelming to Quan and carried her to victory.
How does ranked choice voting work? Watch the video.