The Crusade Against Ranked-Choice Voting

By Steven Tavares

Opponents of ranked-choice voting typically share one unique trait–they have been bitten by its topsy-turvy results in the past. Newly-minted adversaries of the election system include San Leandro Mayor Tony and Don Perata. Santos was in favor of RCV before he was against it and now vows to became a lightning for opposition of its implementation across the country.

“Know this, most people who are against RCV were once for it.” said RCV opponent Terry Reilly in an email to Santos. “They might have thought it was a cool sounding idea in theory, bought the sales pitch, but upon further study, or experiencing it, they find it is not all that it is cracked up to be.” Reilly has been a vocal opponent of RCV in the South Bay and has drawn the ire of supporters from the New America Foundation and FairVote, which have went to great pains to discredit him.

Santos says he plans to give voice to opposition of RCV around the country starting with a ballot measure set for next April in Fort Collins, Colo. The epicenter of the anti-RCV cause is its repeal in Pierce, Wash. where the heavily-populated county rejected ranked-choice voting after just one election.

“Down the road, I hope to never have a RCV election in San Leandro, again,” Santos said Monday night at a city council meeting. “It turns out RCV is really undemocratic,” he said, while maintaining the city’s mayoral election last month did not produce a charter-mandated majority winner. Santos, like Perata in Oakland, received the most first-place votes, but ultimately failed to gain enough second and third-place votes to stave off their challengers. He believes the number of exhausted ballots from the other three candidates were disenfranchised by RCV. “I’m not too sure those you voted for Starosciak, Mestas and Palau are happy to know their votes really did not count,” Santos said.

San Leandro resident Benny Lee asked the council Monday night to take steps to repeal RCV for future elections. Lee called the system “highly flawed” and “deliberately disenfranchises voters.” Another resident, Hendy Huang, who has been critical of mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy in the past, agreed and said outreach by the city and county explaining RCV was a problem for many in the Asian community of whom English is a second language.

“RCV worked exactly as we were told it would work,” said Councilman Bill Stephens. The termed-out member had been an opponent of RCV in the past and had raised many of the same issues, such as voter disenfranchisement and fairness of the system, before the council approved its use back in January.

Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak, who finished third in the race for mayor sounded resigned to the results of the election. With her voice on the verge of cracking, Starosciak lobbied, along with Councilwoman Diana Souza, to return to simple plurality elections and reiterated her opposition to RCV along its increased up-front costs in a time of budget austerity. “I know the race this year has been difficult. San Leandro will make the decisions it makes,” said Starosciak.

It is likely the post mortem on RCV in San Leandro has yet to be written. In the meantime, a period of post-election healing from a hard-fought election season was urged by Stephens. “When the fight is over, we smile, take the tally and move on,” or in Stephens’ case, put your house up for sale and move out of town.

Categories: Don Perata, election, IRV, Joyce Starosciak, mayor, RCV, Terry Reilly, Tony Santos

22 replies

  1. RCV should be done away with, but a dumb old Portuguee with a case of sour grapes shouldn't be the voice behind it.


  2. All of you opposed to RCV should be ashamed of yourselves. RCV saves money. Period. It is not better, just cheaper. Let us vote for cheap. The city has no money to spend on additional elections, the turnout is not any better and this is just sour grapes.


  3. Nice shot at Bill Stephens, perhaps you should add; “or in the case of Tony Santos, cry like baby”.


  4. Toss RCV, runoffs are a better choice.


  5. I agree with tossing out RCV Barry. I'd rather just go to winner take all like it was before Santos, The Chamber of Commerce and all the Maltester hacks came up with this run off crap in 2000. I'm just glad it came back and bit Santos on the ass. Too bad karma hasn't caught up with Tom Dhlugosh, Mike Betts, Tom Guarino, Derek Rinetti and the others who were backing this crap.


  6. Late products purchased on a late-night informercial, they often do not works as advertised. Buyers remorse follows RCV everywhere it goes.

    From electing candidates with 4,321 votes out of 17,808 – 24.3% (District 10 in SF) to costing more than advertised.

    At least San Leandro can change back to a more credible voting system by a simple vote of the council, vs. a recall election like Aspen Co, Burlington VT, Pierce County WA, Ann Arbor MI, etc.


  7. It sounds like they have four votes against and one more meeting. Let's do it!

    Sorry about my dad. He drinks too much vino verde.


  8. While it may be true that candidates who have lost in IRV contests now dislike IRV, there are plenty who never liked it in the first place.

    In North Carolina, we have had 2 IRV pilots. Don Frantz is the only candidate to be elected by IRV votes in those pilots. Don won the Cary District B Town Council contest with less than a majority of all votes.

    Don Frantz led the push for Cary, NC to abandone instant runoff voting:

    “When our town agreed to IRV in 2007, it was kind of rush job..There was a lot of pushback, the public wasn’t involved … I do not like instant runoff voting and have given my reasons as to why many times. I'll take in elections over funny math and 30% voter confusion any day.” ~ Don Frantz Cary City Council member.


  9. Jr. fecha a boca.


  10. If you believe politicians who lost under RCV and now oppose it have your best interests at heart, I have some wonderful beachfront property in Nevada you might be interested in.

    Seriously, how can anyone stand to listen to Santos? All RCV does is get done in one election what takes two elections in a traditional primary and runoff. Santos did not have a majority in the primary (the first RCV round) so he had to go into the runoff. He lost. This happens in runoffs. Otherwise why have a runoff?

    I suppose Santos now prefers the traditional two election scheme because fewer voters participate and the money required advantages traditional politicians. Great for them. Not so good for us.

    Of course, the return to plurality is an option (most votes in the primary wins), but this would have given San Leandro a 36% mayor. Great for Santos, but hardly representative or democratic for the voters.


  11. Preston the reason San Leandro went away from a plurality is because Elleen Corbett won with 13 or 16% of the vote, which when looking at overall registered voters was actually 8%.

    So a 36% mayor would have been a huge improvement.

    There are other systems that work to achieve the same results a RCV that may be a better alternative.

    If you want to educate yourself here is a link.

    There are 2000 people whose votes were not counted in this past election because they did not vote for a second or third place candidate or didn't vote for either of the top 2 candidates. If you think peoples votes should be discarded than support RCV.


  12. RCV doesn't disenfranchise the stupid, the foreign, and ethnical minorities. It has only disenfranchised one dumb old Portuguee who thought he could rig an election.


  13. the city charter says that a majory plus one is the winner. this election the total vote was 23,494. 1/2 is 11,792 + 1 is 11,793. the number to be electted. so before you can be a winner. when you total the rank votes no one got that the top two have run off.


  14. Any of you who actually think that Mayor Santos, Mayor Cassidy, Mayor Corbett and Mayor Maltester were good and represented the citizens of San Leandro, well you are most naive indeed. The best that can happen is to have as inexpensive an electiion as possible, one time, and move on. Replace the rascals the next time.


  15. Hey all you dummies who think that 2000 people's votes are disenfranchised because they didn't vote for a 2nd or 3rd choice, does it not occur to you that maybe those people didn't like anyone so therefore they didn't vote for a 2nd or 3rd choice? DUH!


  16. Meus amigos, as palavras mais verdadeiras nunca foram ditas. Eu prefiro muito mais o VN, ele simplesmente economiza dinheiro. A afluência às urnas na maioria dos escoamentos foram patéticos, com menos de 25% em San Leandro e, geralmente, na maioria das eleições. O que você acha? Eu digo manter VN. Pelo menos Santos se foi. Chop.


  17. Chop;

    Bem, eu não posso discutir com qualquer coisa que lavada Santos para o mar.



  18. The discussion is ultimately a discussion about democracy. There are lots of other things that we could do to make the process more democratic and less an exercise in marketing. When I worked for a political direct marketing company they counseled people to limit text. Since mailers are the campaigns biggest expense,along with consultants then limited text and mailer driven campaigns may be a bigger concern than RCV.Hope we can make the RCV issue into a wider discussing about more democracy, more sources and better information.


  19. Manuel,

    Umas palavras mais verdadeiras nunca foram ditas, meu amigo. Esperemos que o Santos e sua laia permanecer no mar e que o fim virá através do caos iminente que se seguiu.



  20. Anyone catch the Review's article today where Santos was crying about “forgiving” himself a $26,000 loan the last time he ran? This guy is too much.


  21. I think Tony's argument was that he had to give himself the loan the last time there was a run off election. It cost him too much then. Now he wants to pawn off the expense to the taxpayers. Keep RCV, it is cheaper. The quality of the candidates does not differ much.


  22. The right answer to the problem of involuntarily exhausted ballots is to get better equipment, equipment that allows voters to rank more candidates. For example, Cambridge, Massachusetts, which uses a version of RCV to elect its nine-member city council, uses equipment that allows the voters to rank all the candidates, up to a limit of 30. (They typically have more than 20 candidates for the nine seats each election.) Of course, most voters don't rank all the candidates; the average voter ranks only five or six. But any exhausted ballots in Cambridge are voluntary; no one is denied the opportunity to have their vote count in the last round because the ballot wouldn't let them rank all their choices.

    San Leandro should join with Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco and ask the voting machine vendors for better equipment.


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