Rank Choice Voting Paid Off for a Poor Candidate

(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Have you ever heard of ranked-choice voting? There’s good and bad points but Oakland was recently the first large U.S. city to use it for a mayoral election. Jean Quan who came in second in the election ended up becoming mayor and offers some of the good points in last night’s PBS NewsHour video. (click here for video and transcript)

SPENCER MICHELS: Quan thinks, without ranked-choice voting, which takes the place of a runoff in situations where nobody gets a majority, she would have been in trouble raising money for another election.

JEAN QUAN: In a traditional system, I would have had to raise $400,000 in June, and I would have to try to raise $400,000 in the fall. My husband and I actually put a second mortgage on our house to make sure we’d have enough money on Election Day.

Well obviously she was not exactly an impoverished candidate but there are many questions and answers addressed in the link above about this means of avoiding runoff elections. Another PBS video and transcript that takes a closer look at Oakland’s new mayor helps also helps to explain rank-choice voting.

But the new system used for the election garnered as much attention as the candidates and the issues. This was the first year the county used “ranked-choice voting,” which asks voters to name the second- and third-choice candidates in addition to their top one. In the first round of voting, State Sen. Don Perata won the most votes but he didn’t have enough to secure the required majority. After an eight-day vote count, city council member Jean Quan got more than enough second- and third-place votes to overtake Perata and win.


This controversial method that is also called Instant-runoff voting got a second place candidate in office who claims she would have not been able to raise funds for a second election. That could be good for Third Party candidates in some future elections.

In this age of electronic voting the city saves a bundle compared with a second trip to the polls and runoffs also offer a different and smaller body of voters. I thought it was interesting that under the ranked-choice voting system, the most voters ever showed up to vote in a Oakland mayor’s race. What do you think?  

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  1. This election video from Jean Quan is precious.

  2. for school board elections and I know a few of the larger unions have used this to select their governing boards.

    Of course the best way to finance elections that there is a level playing field is mandated public financing, equal access for campaign in the media and time limits on when campaigning begins and ends but then I’m also French.

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